by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhiphoto credit: Brother Chou of Bodhi Monastery
Excerpted from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s remarks to the Community Dharma Leaders program at BCBS, June 29, 2006.Insight Journal • WINTER 2006
I have been thinking about the discussion we had yesterday on the problems you’ve encountered in teaching Buddhism in America. I would like to off er a few of my own thoughts on this subject. As we go along, I will also share with you the general outlines of one scheme I’ve worked out for pulling the Buddha’s teachings together into a single, all-embracing whole. In my view one of the major errors that is being made in the teaching of Buddhism here in the U.S. (and more broadly in the West) is the fl at identifi cation of Buddhadhamma (the teachings of the Buddha) with meditation, especially with insight meditation. I see the Dhamma…
I am asking my blog followers, friends, fellow Buddhist and fellow bloggers on my blog roll, to join BGR and me in raising funds and awareness on the serious issues of hunger, worldwide. I am blessed with the most wonderful friends, new and old, all across this world, lets come together and work in harmony and solidarity to make an huge impact on world hunger. If not you, then who? We can do it!
Melissa Schaid / Changhui Upasika
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.” -Mother Theresa
For close to a billion people around the world, hunger is a real, terrible, and ever-present fate that hounds their every step. According to the World Food Program, each year ten million people, many of them children, die of hunger and hunger-related diseases. Each day over a hundred million people wonder where their next meal will come from. Because it is so commonplace, chronic hunger seldom makes the headlines, seldom whips up massive waves of public sympathy. Its victims suffer in silence, almost forgotten by those with assured livelihoods and comfortably filled stomachs.
The Buddha, however, clearly recognized the frightful toll that hunger takes on human life. In the Dhammapada, he said “Hunger is the worst illness.” When people go hungry each day, for months and years on end, every aspect of their life is degraded. The body loses mass and withers away; the pangs of hunger remain constant; one thinks only about food, dreams only about food. And the ultimate prognosis for chronic hunger is grim: debilitating illness, perhaps an early death.
It is in response to the cries of those afflicted with chronic hunger that Buddhist Global Relief came into being, and it is to redress this condition that its programs are formulated. Our primary purpose is to combat hunger. We address our efforts both to assist victims of sudden disaster who need emergency food aid, and to enable those crippled by chronic food shortages to develop stable, long-term strategies of improved food security. Our endeavor is to ensure that the world’s poorest people are provided with adequate nutrition, and provided with it long into the future. Our hope is that, when their nutritional needs are met, they will be able to unfold and actualize their fullest potential for goodness and meaning in their lives.
“In giving food, one gives five things to the recipients: one gives life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity. In giving these five things, one in turn partakes of life, beauty, happiness, strength, and mental clarity, whether in this world or in the heavenly realm.”
– Anguttara Nikaya 5:37
BGR fights hunger and poverty in the developing world. BGR raises funds for food relief from both private donors and philanthropic organizations. We provide grants to relief organizations, primarily local ones, working in third world communities to provide emergency food relief and to meet the need for clean water, education, and supporting infrastructure.
BGR seeks to develop local capacity. BGR works in partnership with agencies, temples, and relief organizations already operating on the ground to provide the needed relief to victims of natural disaster, violent conflict, and drought. It also supports projects aimed at developing better long-term methods of food production and management in countries stricken by poverty and under-development. In each instance, our goal is to enable local communities to develop long-term sustainable solutions to the problem of hunger.
BGR does not proselytize. Our guiding purpose is to provide aid, not to convert others to Buddhism. Although our initial projects are being launched in countries with largely Buddhist populations, we do not restrict our aid to Buddhists or expect those who receive aid from us to embrace Buddhism. BGR respects the religious beliefs and practices of the people whom it serves and seeks to work in harmony with those of all faiths to alleviate the plight of the poor.
BGR seeks to educate and involve fellow Buddhists and other Buddhist groups in the effort to eliminate hunger. BGR seeks to make the elimination of hunger an integral part of our contemporary Buddhist identity. We bring Buddhist perspectives to bear on many dimensions of global poverty through teaching and publishing materials from our Buddhist tradition that are responsive to the unique challenges of the 21st century.
Where we work
As a newly established organization with limited means, we are focusing initially upon countries in Asia with predominantly Buddhist populations. However, we fully understand that hunger knows no religion, nor does the universal ethic of the Buddha’s teaching permit us to limit our help to any one group of people. As our resources and abilities grow, we will expand our work to include other people in other lands who suffer due to malnourishment and starvation.
2.) Create your own walk with your Sangha, Church, Club, Community and please let me know you are creating a walk, We’d like to promote and share your posts and walks on our social media also.Contact me at NYCsocialmedia@buddhistglobalrelief.org
6.) Become a BGR volunteer: please contact Deena Scherer firstname.lastname@example.org
7.) Simply share this entire blog post.
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” -Mother Teresa
“To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality; to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it, the further astray you wander from the truth. Stop talking and thinking and there is nothing you will not be able to know.”
♥ America, this Saturday, May 11th, donate a bag of groceries ♥
It’s EASY to Help :
1. Collect and bag non-perishable food items
2.Place by mailbox for letter carrier to deliver to a local food bank or pantry
On May 11, 2013 we’ll celebrate our 21st year of Stamp Out Hunger! Help the NALC fight hunger in America by getting involved. Thanks for your support!
On Saturday, May 11, Campbell Soup Company will join forces with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to Stamp Out Hunger across America in order to provide assistance to the rapidly increasing number of Americans who are struggling with hunger.
Now in its 21th year, the Stamp Out Hunger effort is the nation’s largest single-day food drive. In 2012, 70.5 million pounds of food was donated, which brought the grand total of donations to more than 1.2 billion pounds of food collected over the history of the drive.
Unfortunately, despite the generosity of millions of Americans who have supported the letter carriers’ food drive in previous years, the need for food assistance has never been greater. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual study measuring food security in the United States, nearly 50 million Americans are living in food insecure homes.
“Furthermore, Subhuti, in the practice of compassion and charity a disciple should be detached. That is to say, he should practice compassion and charity without regard to appearances, without regard to form, without regard to sound, smell, taste, touch, or any quality of any kind. Subhuti, this is how the disciple should practice compassion and charity. Why? Because practicing compassion and charity without attachment is the way to reaching the Highest Perfect Wisdom, it is the way to becoming a living Buddha”
PETA KILLS animals ! This is just horrible, I hope PETA goes broke and their name is trash now ! Please read and pass on . “While claiming to be an animal rights organization, PETA does not believe animals have a right to live. Instead, it believes that people have a right to kill them, as long as the killing is done “humanely,” which PETA interprets to mean poisoning them with an overdose of barbiturates, even if the animals are not suffering. In 2012, 733 dogs entered this building. They killed 602 of them. Only 12 were adopted. Also in 2012, they impounded 1,110 cats. 1,045 were put to death. Seven of them were adopted. They also took in 34 other companion animals, such as rabbits, of which 28 were put to death. Only four were adopted.”
Bhante makes it easy to donate ❤ Please share, donate, post on your blogs and pass this on.
Please see his blog here at WHAT BUDDHA SAID
One can advantageously donate funds for food, which is needed every month here.Whoever gives food later gains bodily strength, vitality, vigor and health.
FROM BHIKKHU SAMAHITA’S WEBSITE : Register a new account on Main City: kandy – 2 Suburb: Peradeniya
When U have ordered then click “save cart”. Then U can easily order the same again.
Chose: Pickup delivery option at checkout and write in the notes:
To: Bhikkhu Samahita. (Lay name: Jan Erik Hansen, Passport#: 203419711)
Pickup by: Venerable Bhikkhu Samahita.
They accept Sri Lankan bank transfers and credit cards and also international credit cards.
Then I can pick it up with the receipt U will get emailed from Keels if U forward it to me
by email to: email@example.com
Venerable Bhikkhu Samahita
Cypress Hermitage, Bambarella
Kandy, Central Province.
Phone: (+94) 081 562 0553
THE DISCOURSE OF THE TEACHING BEQUEATHED BY THE BUDDHA(just before His Parinibbana)
Translated into Chinese by the Indian Acarya Kumarajiva sometime prior to the year 956 Buddhist Era.
WHEN LORD BUDDHA, Sage of the Sakyas, first turned the Wheel of the Dhamma, Venerable Annakondanna crossed over (the ocean of birth and death); while as a result of his last Discourse Venerable Subhadda crossed over likewise. All those who were (ready) to cross over, them he (helped) to cross over. When about to attain Final Nibbana, he was lying between the twin sala trees in the middle watch of the night. No sound disturbed the calm and silence; then, for the sake of the disciples (savaka), he spoke briefly on the essentials of Dhamma: II. ON THE CULTIVATION OF VIRTUE IN THIS WORLD
1. Exhortation on keeping the Precepts
O bhikkhus, after my Parinibbana you should reverence and honor the Precepts of the Patimokkha. Treat them as a light which you have discovered in the dark, or as a poor man would treat a treasure found by him. You should know that they are your chief guide and there should be no difference (in your observance of them) from when I yet remained in the world. If you would maintain in purity the Precepts, you should not give yourselves over to buying, selling or barter. You should not covet fields or buildings, nor accumulate servants, attendants or animals. You should flee from all sorts of property and wealth as you would avoid a fire or a pit. You should not cut down grass or trees, neither break new soil nor plough the earth. Nor may you compound medicines, practice divination or sorcery according to the position of the stars, cast horoscopes by the waxing and waning of the moon, nor reckon days of good fortune. All these are things which are improper (for a bhikkhu).
Conduct yourselves in purity, eating only at the proper times and living your lives in purity and solitude. You should not concern yourselves with worldly affairs, nor yet circulate rumors. You should not mumble incantations, mix magic potions, nor bind yourselves in friendship to powerful persons, showing to them and the rich (special) friend-liness while treating with contempt those lacking (in worldly wealth, power and so forth). All such things are not to be done!
You should seek, with a steadfast mind, and with Right Mindfulness (samma sati), for Enlightenment. Neither conceal your faults (within), nor work wonders (without), thereby leading (yourself and) other people astray. As to the four offerings, be content with them, knowing what is sufficient. Receive them when offered but do not hoard them. This, briefly, is what is meant by observing the Precepts. These Precepts are fundamental (to a life based on Dhamma-Vinaya) and accord exactly with freedom (mokkha), and so are called the Patimokkha. By relying on them you may attain all levels of collectedness (samadhi) and likewise the knowledge of the extinction of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness). It is for this reason, bhikkhus, that you should always maintain the Precepts in purity and never break them. If you can keep these Precepts pure you possess an excellent (method for the attainment of Enlightenment), but if you do not do so, no merit of any kind will accrue to you. You ought to know for this reason that the Precepts are the chief dwelling-place of the merit which results in both body and mind (citta) being at rest.
2. Exhortation on the control of Mind and Body.
O bhikkus, if you are able already to keep within the Precepts, you must next control the five senses, not permitting the entry of the five sense desires by your unrestraint, just as a cowherd by taking and showing his stick prevents cows from entering another’s field, ripe for the harvest. In an evil-doer indulging the five senses, his five desires will not only exceed all bounds but will become uncontrollable, just as a wild horse unchecked by the bridle must soon drag the man leading it into a pit. If a man be robbed, his sorrow does not extend beyond the period of his life but the evil of that robber (sense-desires) and the depredations caused by him bring calamities extending over many lives, creating very great dukkha. You should control yourselves!
Hence, wise men control themselves and do not indulge their senses but guard them like robbers who must not be allowed freedom from restraint. If you do allow them freedom from restraint, before long you will be destroyed by Mara. The mind is the lord of the five senses and for this reason you should well control the mind. Indeed, you ought to fear indulgence of the mind’s (desires) more than poisonous snakes, savage beasts, dangerous robbers or fierce conflagrations. No simile is strong enough to illustrate (this danger). But think of a man carrying a jar of honey who, as he goes, heeds only the honey and is unaware of a deep pit (in his path)! Or think of a mad elephant unrestrained by shackles! Again, consider a monkey who after climbing into a tree, cannot, except with difficulty, be controlled! Such as these would be difficult to check; therefore hasten to control your desires and do not let them go unrestrained! Indulge the mind (with its desires) and you lose the benefit of being born a man; check it completely and there is nothing you will be unable to accomplish. That is the reason, O bhikkhus, why should strive hard to subdue your minds.
3. Exhortation on the moderate use of food.
O bhikkhus, in receiving all sorts of food and drinks, you should regard them as if taking medicine. Whether they be good or bad, do not accept or reject according to your likes and dislikes; just use them to support your bodies, thereby staying hunger and thirst. As bees while foraging among the flowers extract only the nectar, without harming their color and scent, just so, O bhikkhus, should you do (when collecting alms-food). Accept just enough of what people offer to you for the avoidance of distress. But do not ask for much and thereby spoil the goodness of their hearts, just as the wise man, having estimated the strength of his ox, does not wear out its strength by overloading.
4. Exhortation on sleeping.
O bhikkhus, by day you should practice good Dhamma and not allow yourselves to waste time. In the early evening and late at night do not cease to make an effort, while in the middle of the night you should chant the Suttas to make yourselves better informed. Do not allow yourselves to pass your lives vainly and fruitlessly on account of sleep. You should envisage the world as being consumed by a great fire and quickly determine to save yourselves from it. Do not (spend much time in) sleep! The robbers of the three afflictions forever lie in wait to kill men so that (your danger) is even greater than in a household rent by hatred. So, fearful, how can you sleep and not arouse yourselves? These afflictions are a poisonous snake asleep in your own hearts. They are like a black cobra sleeping in your room. Destroy the snake quickly with the sharp spear of keeping to Precepts! Only when that dormant snake has been driven away will you be able to rest peacefully. If you sleep, not having driven it away, you are men without shame (hiri). The clothing of shame (hiri) among all ornaments, is the very best. Shame can also be compared to an iron goad that can control all human wrong-doing; for which reason, O bhikkhus, you should always feel ashamed of unskillful actions (akusalakamma). You should not be without it even for a moment, for if you are parted from shame, all merits will be lost to you. He who has fear of blame (ottappa) has that which is good, while he who has no fear of blame (anottappa) is not different from the birds and beasts.
5. Exhortation on refraining from anger and ill will.
O bhikkhus, if there were one who came and dismembered you joint by joint, you should not hate him but rather include him in your heart (of friendliness — metta). Besides, you should guard your speech and refrain from reviling him. If you succumb to thoughts of hatred you block your own (progress in) Dhamma and lose the benefits of (accumulated) merits. Patience (khanti) is a virtue which cannot be equaled even by keeping the Precepts and (undertaking) the Austere Practices. Whosoever is able to practice patience can be truly called a great and strong man, but he who is unable to endure abuse as happily as though he were drinking ambrosia, cannot be called one attained to knowledge of Dhamma. Why is this? The harm caused by anger and resentment shatters all your goodness and so (greatly) spoils your good name that neither present nor future generations of men will wish to hear it. You should know that angry thoughts are more terrible than a great fire, so continually guard yourselves against them and do not let them gain entrance. Among the three robbers (the afflictions), none steals merit more than anger and resentment: Those householders dressed in white who have desires and practice little Dhamma, in them, having no way to control themselves, anger may still be excusable; but among those become homeless (pabbajjita) because they wish to practice Dhamma and to abandon desire, the harboring of anger and resentment is scarcely to be expected, just as one does not look for thunder or lightning from a translucent, filmy cloud.
6. Exhortation on refraining from arrogance and contempt.
O bhikkhus, rubbing your heads you should deeply consider yourselves in this way: ‘It is good that I have discarded personal adornment. I wear the russet robe of patches and carry a bowl with which to sustain life.’ When thoughts of arrogance or contempt arise, you must quickly destroy them by regarding yourselves in this way. The growth of arrogance and contempt is not proper among those wearing white and living the household life: how much less so for you, gone forth to homelessness! You should subdue your bodies, collecting food (in your bowls) for the sake of Dhamma-practice to realize Enlightenment.
7. Exhortation on flattery.
O bhikkhus, a mind inclined to flattery is incompatible with Dhamma, therefore it is right to examine and correct such a mind. You should know that flattery is nothing but deception, so that those who have entered the way of Dhamma-practice have no use for it. For this reason, be certain to examine and correct the errors of the mind, for to do so is fundamental. III. ON THE ADVANTAGES FOR GREAT MEN GONE FORTH TO HOMELESSNESS.
1. The virtue of few wishes.
O bhikkhus, you should know that those having many desires, by reason of their desire for selfish profit, experience much dukkha. Those with few desires, neither desiring nor seeking anything, do not therefore experience such dukkha. Straight-away lessen your desires! Further, in order to obtain all kinds of merit you should practice the fewness of desires. Those who desire little do not indulge in flattery so as to away another’s mind, nor are they led by their desires. Those who practice the diminishing of desires thus achieve a mind of contentment having no cause for either grief or fear and, finding the things they receive are sufficient, never suffer from want. From this cause indeed, (comes) Nibbana. Such is the meaning of ‘having few wishes.’
2. The virtue of contentment.
O bhikkhus, if you wish to escape from all kinds of dukkha, you must see that you are contented. The virtue of contentment is the basis of abundance, happiness, peace and seclusion. Those who are contented are happy even though they have to sleep on the ground. Those who are not contented would not be so though they lived in celestial mansions. Such people feel poor even though they are rich, while those who are contented are rich even in poverty. The former are constantly led by their five desires and are greatly pitied by the contented Such is the meaning of ‘contentment’.
3. The virtue of seclusion.
O bhikkhus, seek the joy of quietness and passivity. Avoid confusion and noise and dwell alone in secluded places. Those who dwell in solitude are worshipped with reverence by Sakka and all celestials. This is why you should leave your own and other clans to live alone in quiet places, reflecting (to devdop insight) upon dukkha, its arising and its cessation. Those who rejoice in the pleasures of company must bear as well the pains of company, as when many birds flock to a great tree it may wither and collapse. Attachment to worldly things immerses one in the dukkha experienced by all men, like an old elephant bogged down in a swamp from which he cannot extricate himself. Such is the meaning of ‘secluding oneself.’
4. The virtue of energetic striving.
O bhikkhus, if you strive diligently, nothing will be difficult for you. As a little water constantly trickling can bore a hole through a rock, so must you always strive energetically. If the mind of a disciple (savaka) becomes idle and inattentive, he will resemble one who tries to make fire by friction but rests before the heat is sufficient. However much he desires fire, he cannot (make even a spark). Such is the meaning of ‘energetic striving’.
5. The virtue of attentiveness.
O bhikkhus, seek for a Noble Friend (kalyanamitta). Seek him who will best (be able to) aid you (in developing) the unexcelled and unbroken attention. If you are attentive, none of the (three) robbers, the afflictions, can enter your mind. That is why you must keep your mind in a state of constant attention, for by loss of attention you lose all merits. If your power of attention is very great, though you fall among (conditions favoring) the five robbers of sense-desire, you will not be harmed by them, just as a warrior entering a battle well covered by armor has nothing to fear. Such is the meaning of ‘unbroken attention.’
6. The virtue of collectedness (samadhi).
O bhikkhus, if you guard your mind, so guarded the mind will remain in a state of steady collectedness. If your minds are in a state of collectedness, you will be able to understand the arising and passing away of the impermanent world. For this reason you should strive constantly to practice the various stages of absorption (jhana). When one of these states of collectedness is reached, the mind no longer wanders. A disciple who practices (to attain collectedness) is just like an irrigator who properly regulates his dykes. As he guards water, even a small amount, so should you guard the water of wisdom, thereby preventing it from leaking away. Such is the meaning of ‘collectedness’.
7. The virtue of wisdom. (PRAJNA)
O bhikkhus, if you have wisdom, then do not hunger to make a display of it. Ever look within yourselves so that you do not fall into any fault. In this way you will be able to attain freedom from (the tangle of) the interior and exterior (spheres of senses and sense-objects–ayatana). If you do not accomplish this you cannot be called Dhamma practicers, nor yet are you common persons clad in white, so there will be no name to fit you! Wisdom is a firmly -bound raft which will ferry you across the ocean of birth, old age, sickness and death. Again, it is a brilliant light with which to dispel the black obscurity of ignorance. It is a good medicine for all who are ill. It is a sharp axe for cutting down the strangling fig–tree of the afflictions. That is why you should, by the hearing-, thinking- and development-wisdoms increase your benefits (from Dhamma). If you have Insight (vipassana) stemming from (development-wisdom), though your eyes are but fleshly organs you will be able to see clearly (into your own citta.) Such is the meaning of ‘wisdom’.
8. The virtue of restraint from idle talk.
O bhikkhus, if you indulge in all sorts of idle discussions then your mind will be full of chaotic thoughts, and though you have gone forth to homelessness you will be unable to attain Freedom. That is why, O bhikkhus, you should immediately cease from chaotic thoughts and idle discussions. If you want to attain the Happiness of Nibbana, you must eliminate completely the illness of idle discussion. IV. SELF EXERTION
O bhikkhus, as regards all kinds of virtue, you should ever rid yourselves of laxity, as you would flee from a hateful robber. That Dhamma which the greatly-compassionate Lord has taught for your benefit is now concluded, but it is for you to strive diligently to practice this teaching. Whether you live in the mountains or on the great plains, whether you sojourn beneath a tree or in your own secluded dwellings, bear in mind the Dhamma you have received and let none of it be lost. You should always exert yourselves in practicing it diligently, lest you die after wasting a whole lifetime and come to regret it afterwards. I am like a good doctor who, having diagnosed the complaint, prescribes some medicine; but whether it is taken or not, does not depend on the doctor. Again, I am like a good guide who points out the best road; but if, having heard of it, (the enquirer) does not take it, the fault is not with the guide. V. ON CLEARING UP ALL DOUBTS
O bhikkhus, if you have any doubts regarding the Four Noble Truths: of unsatis-factoriness (dukkha) and the rest, (its arising. its cessation and the Practice-path going to its cessation), you should ask about them at once. Do not harbor such doubts without seeking to resolve them.
On that occasion the Lord spoke thus three times, yet there were none who question-ed him. And why was that? Because there were none in that assembly (of bhikkhus) who harbored any doubts.
Then the venerable Anuruddha, seeing what was in the minds of those assembled, respectfully addressed the Buddha thus: ‘Lord, the moon may grow hot and the sun may become cold, but the Four Noble Truths proclaimed by the Lord cannot be otherwise. The Truth of Dukkha taught by the Lord describes real dukkha which cannot become happiness. The accumulation of desires truly is the cause of the Arising of Dukkha; there can never be a different cause. If dukkha is destroyed (the Cessation of Dukkha), it is because the cause of dukkha has been destroyed, for if the cause is destroyed the result must also be destroyed. The Practice path going to the Cessation of Dukkha is the true path, nor can there be another. Lord, all these bhikkhus are certain and have no doubts about the Four Noble Truths.
In this assembly, those who have not yet done what should be done (i. e., attained to Enlightenment), will, on seeing the Lord attain Final Nibbana, certainly feel sorrowful. (Among them) those who have newly entered upon the Dhamma-way and who have heard what the Lord has (just said), they will all reach Enlightenment (in due course) seeing Dhamma as clearly as a flash of lightning in the dark of the night. But is there anyone who has done what should be done (being an Arahant), already having crossed over the ocean of dukkha who will think thus: “The Lord has attained Final Nibbana; why was this done so quickly?”
Although the Venerable Anuruddha had thus spoken these words, and the whole assembly had penetrated the meaning of the Four Noble Truths, still the Lord wished to strengthen all in that great assembly. With a mind of infinite compassion he spoke (again) for their benefit.
“O bhikkhus, do not feel grieved. If I were to live in the world for a whole aeon (kappa), my association with you would still come to an end, since a meeting with no parting is an impossibility. The Dhamma is now complete for each and every one, so even if I were to live longer it would be of no benefit at all. Those who were (ready) to cross over, both among the celestials and men, have all without exception attained Enlightenment, while those who have not yet completed their crossing (of the ocean of Samsara to the Further Shore or Nibbana) have already produced the necessary causes (to enable them to do so in course of time).
From now on, all my disciples must continue to practice (in this way) without ceasing, whereby the body of the Tathagata’s Dhamma will be ever lasting and indestructi-ble. But as to the world, nothing there is eternal, so that all meeting must be followed by partings. Hence, do not harbor grief, for such (impermanence) is the nature of worldly things. But do strive diligently and quickly seek for Freedom. With the light of Perfect Wisdom destroy the darkness of ignorance, for in this world is nothing strong or enduring.
Now that I am about to attain Final Nibbana, it is like being rid of a terrible sickness. This body is a thing of which we are indeed well rid, an evil thing falsely going by the name of self and sunk in the ocean of birth, disease, old age and death. Can a wise man do aught but rejoice when he is able to rid himself of it, as others might (be glad) when slaying a hateful robber?
O bhikkhus, you should always exert the mind, seeking the Way out (of the Wandering-on, or samsara). All forms in the world, without exception, whether moving or non-moving, are subject to decay and followed by destruction. All of you should stop. It is needless to speak again. Time is passing away. I wish to cross over to Freedom (from existence in this world). These are my very last instructions.” Notes from the editor of the web edition
 Around 344-413 AD.
Print version published by The Buddhist Association of the United States (BAUS)
Even though generosity bears fruit, still to go in faith for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha and determine the five moral precepts bears a greater fruit- Even though that bears fruit, to maintain kindness for the period of time that it takes to milk a cow bears a greater fruit- Even though that bears fruit, it is fruitful to maintain awareness of impermanence for only as long as a finger-snap bears greater fruit-
With an open and broadened mind, one would not be disturbed by the environment. When you apply wisdom and make an effort to improve your environment—you will be at peace and every day will be a good day. less
WARNING! My opinion to follow! ;P As most of you know I do not think my opinion belongs on a blog aimed at promoting the true, pure Buddhadharma, however being an American Buddhist , who has been very very lucky to have found wonderful, authentic teachers and didn’t have the burden of wadeing through “Neo-Buddhism” “Feel good Buddhism” “New age Buddhism” “Buddhism without conviction” “Self Serving Mindfulness and Meditation without Right View ” and whatever else lends itself to this movement of “Feel good Buddhism” , I feel this whole Maha Teacher Council is just as Brad Warner put it so accurately “Oh nice. A self-selected groüp of important Büddhists get together to decide what’s best for the rest of us.”
Is there really a such thing as “American Buddhism” anyway, or has a “Maha Teacher Council” , materialism , and egotism created this thing called American Buddhism? Buddhism is Buddhism, the Doctrine is the Doctrine, any thing else falls short.
My only experience with Buddhism is in America, I do not know what it is like in other countries, but I do know when we have councils whose attendees ( where is the entire list of attendees anyway, still looking for it, won’t someone share?) are less than authentic, ordained Masters of the Dharma what comes out of a council will be less then the entire complete Buddha’s Doctrine, in full, which is the same in Asia, India and America. I am an American Buddhist, can you tell that from the content in my blog? The Doctrine is the same. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there were some authentic Master’s there , and I am certain there were non-Buddhist discussing … well discussing what actually ?!?!? O.0 It still isn’t clear to me , even after reading Rev. Danny Fisher’s interview with Lama Surya Das . ( I assume Rev. Danny didn’t attend, was he invited? If not that says alot in itself, he’s an authentic American Buddhist Reverend )
Did they discuss how to raise funds for Dharma propagation in the America ? Fund books, Sutras and Sutta’s for free distribution?
Did they discuss how to raise funds to build good noble Monasteries in the America?
I really can’t think of anything else more important.
I invite anyone who was at the “Maha Teacher’s Council” to put to rest my concerns, please prove me wrong.
In the Dharma,
Melissa Upasika (just a plain old lay person devoted to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha)
I sincerely thank Brad Warner and MADHUSHALA for blogging their thoughts, concerns and insights and keeping the rest of us who really wouldn’t know about this great “Maha Teacher’s Council” informed. I personally would not have known because I don’t read, subscribe, or give any thought to any person or publication that would have mentioned this great “Maha Teacher’s Council”
Now for the intent and purpose of me humiliating myself by sharing such strong opinions I ask serious American Buddhist practitioners please read Teaching Buddhism in Americaby Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi“In my view one of the major errors that is being made in the teaching of Buddhism here in the U.S. (and more broadly in the West) is the fl at identifi cation of Buddhadhamma (the teachings of the Buddha) with meditation, especially with insight meditation. I see the Dhamma as having a much more extensive range. It involves at least three essential components, which I would call right faith, right understanding, and right practice. Th e practical side is also extensive, and might be summed up in the famous verse of the Dhammapada (183): “To abstain from all evil, to cultivate the wholesome, and to purify one’s mind: that is the instruction of the Buddhas.” Th ese three principles, stated so simply, are quite compressed. Th ey can be elaborated in diverse ways at great length. At the very root of all proper Dhamma practice, in my view, is proper faith, which is expressed by the act of going for refuge to the Triple Gem. By going for refuge, one reposes faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha as one’s supreme ideals. Th is expression of faith should be grounded in understanding what the Th ree Gems represent. Th us faith, understanding, and practice are intricately interwoven. “
Two styles of insight meditation by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi“On the basis of this choice, we find that meditators divide into two broad camps. One consists of those who focus exclusively upon the immediately tangible benefits of the practice, suspending all concern with what lies beyond the horizons of their own experience. The other consists of those who recognize that the practice flows from a source of wisdom much deeper and broader than their own. In order to follow this wisdom in the direction to which it points, such meditators are ready to subordinate their own understanding of the world to the disclosures of the teaching and embrace the Dhamma as an organic whole. These are the ones who adopt Buddhism in its religious and doctrinal sense as the framework for their practice.” Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
The discourse has been described as “the Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry,” and though the discourse certainly does counter the decrees of dogmatism and blind faith with a vigorous call for free investigation, it is problematic whether the sutta can support all the positions that have been ascribed to it. On the basis of a single passage, quoted out of context, the Buddha has been made out to be a pragmatic empiricist who dismisses all doctrine and faith, and whose Dhamma is simply a freethinker’s kit to truth which invites each one to accept and reject whatever he likes.
But does the Kalama Sutta really justify such views? Or do we meet in these claims just another set of variations on that egregious old tendency to interpret the Dhamma according to whatever notions are congenial to oneself – or to those to whom one is preaching? Let us take as careful a look at the Kalama Sutta as the limited space allotted to this essay will allow, remembering that in order to understand the Buddha’s utterances correctly it is essential to take account of his own intentions in making them.
The passage that has been cited so often runs as follows: “Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumor, nor upon scripture, nor upon surmise, nor upon axiom, nor upon specious reasoning, nor upon bias towards a notion pondered over, nor upon another’s seeming ability, nor upon the consideration ‘The monk is our teacher.’ When you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them. When you yourselves know: ‘These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.”
Now this passage, like everything else spoken by the Buddha, has been stated in a specific context – with a particular audience and situation in view – and thus must be understood in relation to that context. The Kalamas, citizens of the town ofKesaputta, had been visited by religious teachers of divergent views, each of whom would propound his own doctrines and tear down the doctrines of his predecessors. This left the Kalamas perplexed, and thus when “the recluse Gotama,” reputed to be an Awakened One, arrived in their township, they approached him in the hope that he might be able to dispel their confusion. From the subsequent development of the sutta, it is clear that the issues that perplexed them were the reality of rebirth and kammic retribution for good and evil deeds.
The Buddha begins by assuring the Kalamas that under such circumstances it is proper for them to doubt, an assurance which encourages free inquiry. He next speaks the passage quoted above, advising the Kalamas to abandon those things they know for themselves to be bad and to undertake those things they know for themselves to be good. This advice can be dangerous if given to those whose ethical sense is undeveloped, and we can thus assume that the Buddha regarded the Kalamas as people of refined moral sensitivity. In any case he did not leave them wholly to their own resources, but by questioning them led them to see that greed, hate and delusion, being conducive to harm and suffering for oneself and others, are to be abandoned, and their opposites, being beneficial to all, are to be developed.
The Buddha next explains that a “noble disciple, devoid of covetousness and ill will, undeluded” dwells pervading the world with boundless loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity. Thus purified of hate and malice, he enjoys here and now four “solaces”: If there is an afterlife and kammic result, then he will undergo a pleasant rebirth, while if there is none he still lives happily here and now; if evil results befall an evil-doer, then no evil will befall him, and if evil results do not befall an evil-doer, then he is purified anyway. With this the Kalamas express their appreciation of the Buddha’s discourse and go for refuge to the Triple Gem.
Now does the Kalama Sutta suggest, as is often held, that a follower of the Buddhist path can dispense with all faith and doctrine, that he should make his own personal experience the criterion for judging the Buddha’s utterances and for rejecting what cannot be squared with it? It is true the Buddha does not ask the Kalamas to accept anything he says out of confidence in himself, but let us note one important point: the Kalamas, at the start of the discourse, were not the Buddha’s disciples. They approached him merely as a counselor who might help dispel their doubts, but they did not come to him as the Tathagata, the Truth-finder, who might show them the way to spiritual progress and to final liberation.
Thus, because the Kalamas had not yet come to accept the Buddha in terms of his unique mission, as the discloser of the liberating truth, it would not have been in place for him to expound to them the Dhamma unique to his own Dispensation: such teachings as the Four Noble Truths, the three characteristics, and the methods of contemplation based upon them. These teachings are specifically intended for those who have accepted the Buddha as their guide to deliverance, and in the suttas he expounds them only to those who “have gained faith in the Tathagata” and who possess the perspective necessary to grasp them and apply them. The Kalamas, however, at the start of the discourse are not yet fertile soil for him to sow the seeds of his liberating message. Still confused by the conflicting claims to which they have been exposed, they are not yet clear even about the groundwork of morality.
Nevertheless, after advising the Kalamas not to rely upon established tradition, abstract reasoning, and charismatic gurus, the Buddha proposes to them a teaching that is immediately verifiable and capable of laying a firm foundation for a life of moral discipline and mental purification . He shows that whether or not there be another life after death, a life of moral restraint and of love and compassion for all beings brings its own intrinsic rewards here and now, a happiness and sense of inward security far superior to the fragile pleasures that can be won by violating moral principles and indulging the mind’s desires. For those who are not concerned to look further, who are not prepared to adopt any convictions about a future life and worlds beyond the present one, such a teaching will ensure their present welfare and their safe passage to a pleasant rebirth – provided they do not fall into the wrong view of denying an afterlife and kammic causation.
However, for those whose vision is capable of widening to encompass the broader horizons of our existence. this teaching given to the Kalamas points beyond its immediate implications to the very core of the Dhamma. For the three states brought forth for examination by the Buddha – greed, hate and delusion – are not merely grounds of wrong conduct or moral stains upon the mind. Within his teaching’s own framework they are the root defilements — the primary causes of all bondage and suffering – and the entire practice of the Dhamma can be viewed as the task of eradicating these evil roots by developing to perfection their antidotes — dispassion, kindness and wisdom.
Thus the discourse to the Kalamas offers an acid test for gaining confidence in the Dhamma as a viable doctrine of deliverance. We begin with an immediately verifiable teaching whose validity can be attested by anyone with the moral integrity to follow it through to its conclusions, namely, that the defilements cause harm and suffering both personal and social, that their removal brings peace and happiness, and that the practices taught by the Buddha are effective means for achieving their removal. By putting this teaching to a personal test, with only a provisional trust in the Buddha as one’s collateral, one eventually arrives at a firmer, experientially grounded confidence in the liberating and purifying power of the Dhamma. This increased confidence in the teaching brings along a deepened faith in the Buddha as teacher, and thus disposes one to accept on trust those principles he enunciates that are relevant to the quest for awakening, even when they lie beyond one’s own capacity for verification. This, in fact, marks the acquisition of right view, in its preliminary role as the forerunner of the entire Noble Eightfold Path.
Partly in reaction to dogmatic religion, partly in subservience to the reigning paradigm of objective scientific knowledge, it has become fashionable to hold, by appeal to the Kalama Sutta, that the Buddha’s teaching dispenses with faith and formulated doctrine and asks us to accept only what we can personally verify. This interpretation of the sutta, however, forgets that the advice the Buddha gave the Kalamas was contingent upon the understanding that they were not yet prepared to place faith in him and his doctrine; it also forgets that the sutta omits, for that very reason, all mention of right view and of the entire perspective that opens up when right view is acquired. It offers instead the most reasonable counsel on wholesome living possible when the issue of ultimate beliefs has been
put into brackets.
What can be justly maintained is that those aspects of the Buddha’s teaching that come within the purview of our ordinary experience can be personally confirmed within experience, and that this confirmation provides a sound basis for placing faith in those aspects of the teaching that necessarily transcend ordinary experience. Faith in the Buddha’s teaching is never regarded as an end in itself nor as a sufficient guarantee of liberation, but only as the starting point for an evolving process of inner transformation that comes to fulfillment in personal insight. But in order for this insight to exercise a truly liberative function, it must unfold in the context of an accurate grasp of the essential truths concerning our situation in the world and the domain where deliverance is to be sought. These truths have been imparted to us by the Buddha out of his own profound comprehension of the human condition. To accept them in trust after careful consideration is to set foot on a journey which transforms faith into wisdom, confidence into certainty, and culminates in liberation from suffering.
There are many kinds of method but I will deal briefly with them.
PREREQUISITES OF THE PERFORMANCE OF RELIGIOUS DUTY
(1) Firm belief in the (law of) causality
Whoever One may be, especially if striving to perform one’s religious duty, one should believe firmly in the law of causality. If one lacks this belief and does whatever one likes, not only will one fail in the performance of religious duty, but also there will be no escape from this law (of causality) even in the three unhappy ways. An ancient master said: ‘If one wishes to know the causes formed in a previous life, one can find them in how one fares in the present life; if one wishes to know the effects in the next life, one can find them in one’s deeds in the present life.’ He also said: ‘The karma of our deeds will never be wiped out even after hundreds and thousands of aeons (but) as soon as conditions become ripe, we will have to bear the effects ourselves.’ The Surangama Sutra says: ‘If the causal ground is not a true one, the ripening (fruit) will be distorted’ Therefore, when one sows a good cause, one will reap a good fruit (and) when one sows an evil cause, one will reap an evil fruit; when one sows melon (seeds) one will gather melons (and) when one sows beans, one will gather beans. This is the plain truth. As I am talking about the law of causality, I will tell you two stories to illustrate it.
The first story is about the massacre of the Sakya clansmen by the Crystal King (Virudhaka). Before the advent of Sakyamuni Buddha, there was near Kapila town a village inhabited by fishermen, and in it was a big pond. It happened that because of a great drought, the pond ran dry and all the fish were caught and eaten by the villagers. The last fish taken was a big one and before it was killed, a boy who never ate fish, played with it and thrice knocked its head. Later, after Sakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world, King Prasenajit who believed in the Buddha-dharma, married a Sakya girl who then gave birth to a prince called Crsytal. When he was young, Crystal had his schooling in Kapila which was then inhabited by the Sakya clansmen. One day while playing, the boy ascended to the Buddha’s seat and was reprimanded by others who dragged him down. The boy cherished a grudge against the men and when he became king, he led his soldiers to attack Kapila, killing all its inhabitants. At the same time, the Buddha suffered from a headache which lasted three days. When His disciples asked Him to rescue the poor inhabitants, the Buddha replied that a fixed Karma could not be changed. By means of his miraculous powers, Maudgalyayana rescued five hundred Sakya clansmen and thought he could give them refuge in his own bowl which was raised up in the air. When the bowl was brought down, all the men had been turned into blood. When asked by His chief disciples, the Buddha related the story (kung an) of the villagers who in days gone by had killed all the fish (in their pond); King Crystal had been the big fish and his soldiers the other fish in the pond; the inhabitants of Kapila who were now killed had been those who ate the fish; and the Buddha Himself had been the boy who thrice knocked the head of the big fish. (Karma was) now causing Him to suffer from a headache for three days in retribution for his previous act. Since there colud be no escape from the effects of a fixed Karma, the five hundred Sakya clansmen, although rescued by Maudgalyayana, shared the same fate. Later, King Crystal was reborn in a hell. (As cause produces effect which in turn becomes a new cause) the retribution (theory) is inexhaustible. The law of causality is really very dreadful.
The second story is that of (Ch’an master) Pai Chang who liberated a wild fox. One day, after a Ch’an meeting, although all his disciples had retired, the old master Pai Chang noticed an elderly man who remained behind. Pai Chang asked the man what he was doing and he replied: ‘I am not a human being but the spirit of a wild fox. In my previous life, I was the head-monk of this place. One day, a monk asked me, “Does a man practicing self-cultivation, still become involved in the (theory of) retribution?” I replied, “No, he is free from the (theory of) retribution.” For this (reply) alone, I got involved in retribution and have now been the spirit of a wild fox for five hundred years, and am still unable to get away from it. Will the master be compassionate enough to enlighten me on all this?’ Pai Chang said to the old man: ‘Ask me the same question (and I will explain it to you).’ The man then said to the master: ‘I wish to ask the master this: Does one who practices self cultivation still get involved in the (theory of) retribution?’ Pai Chang replied: ‘He is not blind to cause and effect.’ Thereupon, the old man was greatly awakened; he prostrated himself before the master to thank him and said: ‘I am indebted to you for your (appropriate) reply to the question and am now liberated from the fox’s body. I live in a (small) grotto on the mountain behind and hope you will grant me the usual rites for a dead monk.’ The following day, Pai Chang went to a mountain behind (his monastery), where in a (small) grotto he probed the ground with his staff and discovered a dead fox for whom the usual funeral rites for a dead monk were held.
(Dear) friends, after listening to these two stories, you will realize that the law of causality is indeed a dreadful (thing). Even after His attainment of Buddhahood, the Buddha still suffered a headache in retribution (for His former act). Retribution is infallible and fixed karma is inescapable. So we should always be heedful of all this and should be very careful about creating (new) causes.
(2) Strict observance if the rules of discipline (commandment)
In striving to perform one’s religious duty, the first thing is to observe the rules of discipline. For discipline is the fundamental of the Supreme Bodhi; discipline begets immutability and immutability begets wisdom. There is no such thing as self-cultivation without observance of the rules of discipline. The Surangama Sutra which lists four kinds of purity, clearly teaches us that cultivation of Samadhi (-mind) without observance of the rules of discipline, will not wipe out the dust (impurities). Even if there be manifestation of much knowledge with dhyana, this also will cause a fall into (the realm of) maras (evil demons) and heretics. Therefore, we know that observance of the rules of discipline is very important. A man observing them is supported and protected by dragon-kings and devas, and respected and feared by maras and heretics. A man breaking the rules of discipline is called a big robber by the ghosts who make a clean sweep of even his footprints. Formerly, in Kubhana state (Kashmir), there was nearby a monastery a poisonous dragon which frequently played havoc in the region. (In the monastery) five hundred arhats gathered together but failed to drive away the dragon with their collective power of Dhyana-samadhi. Later, a monk came (to the monastery) where he did not enter into Dhyana-samadhi; he merely said to the poisonous dragon: ‘Will the wise and virtuous one leave this place and go to some distant one.’ Thereupon, the poisonous dragon fled to a distant place. When asked by the arhats what miraculous power he had used to drive away the dragon, the monk replied: ‘I did not use the power of Dhyana-samadhi; I am only very careful about keeping the rules of discipline and I observe a minor one with the same care as a major one.’ So, we can see that the collective power of five hundred arhats’ Dhyana–samadhi cannot compare with a monk’s strict observance of the rules of discipline.
If you (retort and) ask me (why) the Sixth Patriarch said:
‘Why should discipline be observed if the mind is (already) impartial?
Why should straightforward men practice Ch’an ?’
I will ask you back this question: ‘Is your mind already impartial and straightforward; if the (lady) Ch’ang O came down from the moon with her naked body and embraced you in her arms, would your heart remain undisturbed; and if someone without any reason insults and beats you, will you not give rise to feelings of anger and resentment? Can you refrain from differentiating between enmity and affection, between hate and love, between self and other, and between right and wrong? If you can do all this, then you can open your mouth widely to talk, otherwise it is useless to tell a deliberate lie.’
(3) A firm faith
A firm believing mind is the fundamental of one’s training for performing one’s religious duty, because faith is the mother (or begetter) of the beginning (or source) of right doctrine, and because without faith, no good will derive therefrom. If we want to be liberated from (the round of) births and deaths, we must first have a firm believing mind. The Buddha said that all living beings on earth had (inherent in them) the meritorious Tathagata wisdom which they could not realize solely because of their false thinking and grasping. He also expounded all kinds of Dharma doors (to enlightenment) to cure (all kinds of) ailments from which living beings suffered. We should, therefore, believe that his words are not false and that all living beings can attain Buddhahood. But why have we failed to attain Buddhahood? It is because we have not gone into training according to the (correct) method. For example, we believe and know that bean curd can be made with soybean but if we do not start making it, soybean cannot turn into bean curd (for us). Now assuming that soybean is used for making bean curd, we shall still fail to make it if we do not know how to mix it with gypsum. If we know the method, we will grind the soybean (put the powder in water), boil it, take out the bean grounds and add a suitable quantity of gypsum powder; thus we will certainly get bean curd. Likewise, in the performance of our religious duty, Buddhahood will be unattainable not only because of lack of training, but also because of training not in conformity with the (correct) method. If our self-cultivation is practiced according to the (correct) method, without either backsliding or regret, we are bound to attain Buddhahood.
Therefore, we should firmly believe that fundamentally we are Buddhas, we should also firmly believe that self-cultivation performed according to the (correct) method is bound to result in the attainment of Buddha-hood. Master Yung Chia said (in his Song of Enlightenment):
‘When the real is attained, neither ego nor dharma exist,
And in a moment the avici karma is eradicated.
If knowingly I lie to deceive living beings, my tongue
Will be pulled out for aeons uncountable as dust and sand.’
The old master was very compassionate and took this boundless vow to urge those coming after him to develop a firm believing mind.
(4) Adoption of the method of training
After one has developed a firm faith, one should choose a Dharma door (to enlightenment) for one’s training. One should never change it, and when one’s choice has been made, either for repetition of the Buddha’s name, or for holding a mantra, or for Ch’an training, one should stick to it for ever without backsliding and regret. If today the method does not prove successful, tomorrow it shall be continued; if this year it does not prove successful, next year it shall be continued; and if in the present lifetime it does not prove successful, it shall be continued in the next life. The old master Kuei Shan said: ‘If one practices it in each succeeding reincarnation, the Buddha-stage can be expected.’ There are some people who are irresolute in their decisions; today after hearing a learned man praise the repetition of Buddha’s name, they decide to repeat it for a couple of days and tomorrow, after hearing another learned man praise Ch’an training, they will try it for another two days. If they like to play in this manner, they will go on doing so until their death without succeeding in getting any result. Is it not a pity?
METHOD OF CH’AN TRAINING
Athough there are many Dharma doors (to enlightenment), the Buddha, Patriarchs and Ancestors were agreed that the Ch’an training was the unsurpassed wonderful door. In the Surangama assembly, the Buddha ordered Manjusri to choose between the (various modes of) complete enlightenment, and (he chose) Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’s (method) of using the faculty of hearing, as the best. When we turn back the hearing to hear our self-nature, this is (one of the methods of) Ch’an training. This place is a Ch’an hall in which we should discuss this Ch’an training.
ESSENTIALS OF CH’AN TRAINING
Our daily activities are performed within the truth itself. Is there a place that is not a Bodhimandala? Fundamentally a Ch’an hall is out of place; moreover Ch’an does not mean sitting (in meditation). The so-called Ch’an hall and the so-called Ch’an sitting are only provided for people (who encounter) insurmountable obstructions (of their own) and who are of shallow wisdom in this period of decadence (of the Dharma).
When one sits in this training, one’s body and mind should be well controlled. If they are not well controlled a small harm will be illness and a great harm will be entanglement with the demon, which is most regrettable. In the Ch’an hall, when incense sticks are burned for your walking or sitting, the aim is to ensure the control of body and mind. Besides this, there are many ways to control body and mind, but I will deal briefly with the essential ones.
When sitting in Ch’an meditation, the correct position is the natural one. The waist should not be pushed forward, for to do so is to pull upward the inner heat with the result that after the sitting, there will be tears, bad breath, uneasy respiration, loss of appetite and even vomiting of blood. Neither should the waist be drawn backward with dropped head, for this can easily cause dullness. As soon as dullness is felt, the meditator should open his eyes wide, pull up his waist and gently shake his buttocks, and dullness will disappear automatically.
If the training is undergone in hot haste, one will feel a certain annoying dryness in the chest. In this case, it will be advisable to stop the training for the time a half-inch of the incense stick takes to burn, and resume when one feels at ease again. If one does not proceed in this manner, one will, as time goes on, develop a hot and excitable character, and in the worst case, one may thereby become insane or get entangled with demons.
When the Ch’an sitting (in meditation) becomes effective, there will be (mental) states which are too many to enumerate, but if you do not cling to them, they will not hinder you. This is just what the proverb says: ‘Don’t wonder at the wonderful and the wonderful will be in full retreat.’ Even if you see evil spirits of all kinds coming to disturb you, you should take no notice of them and you should not be afraid of them. Even if Sakyamuni Buddha comes to lay His hand on your head and prophesies (your future Buddhahood) you should not take any notice of all this and should not be delighted by it. The Surangama Sutra says: ‘A perfect state is that in which the mind is undisturbed by the saintly; an interpretation of the saintly is entanglement with all demons.’
By going to (a) the hell of fire, (b) the hell of blood, where the inhabitants devour each other like animals and (c) the Asipattra hell of swords, where the leaves and grass are sharp-edged swords.
This story was related by the Buddha himself.
King of Sravasti and a contemporary of the Buddha. He was killed by his son, Virudhaka, known as the Crystal King and the Evil Born King, who supplanted him.
 Maha-Maudgalyayana, or Maudgalaputra, was one of the ten chief disciples of the Buddha, and was specially noted for his miraculous power; formerly an ascetic, he agreed with Sariputra that whichever first found the truth would reveal it to the other. Sariputra found the Buddha and brought Maudgalyayana to Him; the former is placed on His right, the latter on His left.
This story is recorded in ‘The Transmission of the Lamp’ (Ching Te Ch’uan Teng Lu) and other Ch’an collections.
In his previous life. the old monk had already succeeded in disentangling his mind (from its attachment to the phenomenal. However, he could not get away from Samsara because of the karma of misguiding his former disciple about retribution. In his present transmigration, he had realized a singleness of mind about leaving the world of animals and had thereby acquired the occult power of transforming his fox’s body into that of an old man. However, he still clung to the dual view of the existence of ego (subject) and fox (object) and could not free himself from this last bondage. Pai Chang’s words had a tremendous effect on the old man, releasing his mind from his doubt about his self-nature which fundamentally was pure and contained neither cause nor effect. Being free from this last bond, his self-nature now returned to normal and could function without further handicap; it could hear the master’s voice by means of its function. When function operated normally, its essence manifested itself; hence enlightenment.
See ‘The Altar Sutra of the Six Patriarch,’ Chapter 3.
The name of a very beautiflil lady who, according to a popular tale, stole the elixir of life and fled with it to the moon where she was changed into a frog.
Avici is the last and deepest of the eight hells, where the culprits suffer, die, and are instantly reborn to suffering without interruption.
As punishment for verbal sins.
The Patriarchs are the six Patriarchs of China. The Ancestors are the great Ch’an Masters who came after the Patriarchs. Hsu Yun is now called an Ancestor.
Bodhimandala: truth-plot, holy site, place of enlightenment.
A custom of Buddha in teaching His disciples, from which the burning of spots on the head of a monk is said to have originated. The eventual vision of the Buddha is merely an impure creation of the deluded mind and does not really represent Him in His Dharmakaya which is inconceivable. Many meditators mistake such visions for the real and become involved with demons. (See Surangama Sutra.)
On the 1st day of the 7th Moon, the Patriarch assembled his disciples and addressed them as follows:–
“I am going to leave this world by the 8th Moon. Should you have any doubts (on the doctrine) please ask me in time, so that I can clear them up for you. You may find no one to teach you after my departure.”
The sad news moved Fa Hai and other disciples to tears. Shen Hui, on the other hand, remained unperturbed. Commending him, the Patriarch said, “Young Master Shen Hui is the only one here who has attained that state of mind which sees no difference in good or evil, knows neither sorrow nor happiness, and is unmoved by praise or blame. After so many years’ training in this mountain, what progress have you made? What are you crying for now? Are you worrying for me because I do not know whither I shall go? But I do know; otherwise I could not tell you beforehand what will happen. What makes you cry is that you don’t know whither I am going. If you did, there would be no occasion for you to cry. In Suchness (Tathata) there is neither coming nor going, neither becoming nor cessation. Sit down, all of you, and let me read you a stanza on reality and illusion, and on Motion and Quietude. Read it, and your opinion will accord with mine. Practice it, and you will grasp the aim and object of our School.”
The assembly made obeisance and asked the Patriarch to let them hear the stanza, which read as follows:–
In all things there is nothing real,And so we should free ourselves from the concept of the reality of objects.
He who believes in the reality of objects
Is bound by this very concept, which is entirely illusive.
He who realizes the ‘Reality’ (i.e.,Essence of Mind) within himself
Knows that the ‘True Mind’ is to be sought apart from false phenomena.
If one’s mind is bound by illusive phenomena
Where is Reality to be found, when all phenomena are unreal?
Sentient beings are mobile;
Inanimate objects are stationary.
He who trains himself by exercise to be motionless
(Gets no benefit) other than making himself as still as an inanimate object.
Should you the find true type Immobility
There is Immobility within Activity.
Immobility alone (like that of inanimate objects) is immobility (and not Dhyana),
And in inanimate objects the seed of Buddhahood is not to be found.
He who is adept in the discrimination of various Dharmalaksana
Abides immovably in the ‘First Principle’ (Nirvana).
Thus are all things to be perceived,
And this is the functioning of Tathata (Suchness).
Treaders of the Path,
Exert yourself and take heed
That as followers of the Mahayana School
You do not embrace that sort of knowledge
Which binds you to the wheel of birth and death.
With those who are sympathetic
Let us have discussion on Buddhism.
As for those whose point of view differs from ours
Let us treat them politely and thus make them happy.
(But) disputes are alien to our School,
For they are incompatible with its doctrine.
To be bigoted and to argue with others in disregard of this rule
Is to subjects one’s Essence of Mind to the bitterness of mundane existence.
Having heard this stanza, the assembly made obeisance in a body. In accordance with the wishes of the Patriarch, they concentrated their minds to put the stanza into actual practice, and refrained from religious controversy.
Seeing that the Patriarch would pass away in the near future, the head Monk, Fa Hai, after prostrating himself twice asked, “Sir, upon your entering Nirvana, who will be the inheritor of the robe and the Dharma?”
“All my sermons,” replied the Patriarch, “from the time I preached in Da Fan monastery, may be copied out for circulation in a volume to be entitled ‘Sutra Spoken on the High Seat of the Treasure of the Law’. (Dharmaratha) Take good care of it and hand it down from one generation to another for the salvation of all sentient beings. He who preaches in accordance with its teachings preaches the Orthodox Dharma.
“So much for the Dharma. As to transmission of the robe, this practice is to be discontinued. Why? Because you all have implicit faith in my teaching, and being free from all doubts you are able to carry out the lofty object of our School. Furthermore, according to the implied meaning of the stanza by Bodhidharma, the first Patriarch, on Dharma transmission, the robe need not be handed down to posterity. The stanza reads:–
The object of my coming to this land (i.e., China)Is to transmit the Dharma for the deliverance of those under delusion.
In five petals the flowers will be complete.
Thereafter, the fruit will come to bearing naturally.
The Patriarch added, “Learned Audience, purify your minds and listen to me. He who wishes to attain the All-knowing Knowledge of a Buddha should know the ‘Samadhi of Specific Object’ and the ‘Samadhi of Specific Mode’. In all circumstances we should free ourselves from attachment to objects, and our attitude towards them should be neutral and indifferent. Let neither success nor failure, neither profit nor loss, worry us. Let us be calm and serene, modest and accommodating, simple and dispassionate. Such is the ‘Samadhi of Specific Object’. On all occasions, whether we are standing, walking, sitting or reclining, let us be absolutely straightforward. Then, remaining in our sanctuary, and without the least movement, we shall virtually be in the Kingdom of Pure Land. Such is the ‘Samadhi of Specific Mode’.
“He who is complete with these two forms of Samadhi may be likened to the ground with seeds sown therein. Covered up in the mud, the seeds receive nourishment therefrom and grow until the fruit comes into bearing.
“My preaching to you now may be likened to the seasonable rain which brings moisture to a vast area of land. The Buddha-nature within you may be likened to the seed which, being moistened by the rain, will grow rapidly. He who carries out my instructions will certainly attain Bodhi. He who follows my teaching will certainly attain the superb fruit (of Buddhahood). Listen to my stanza:–
Buddha-seeds latent in our mindWill sprout upon the coming of the all-pervading rain.
The ‘flower’ of the doctrine having been intuitively grasped,
One is bound to reap the fruit of Enlightenment.
Then he added, “The Dharma is non-dual and so is the mind. The Path is pure and above all forms. I warn you not to use those exercises for meditation on quietude or for keeping the mind a blank. The mind is by nature pure, so there is nothing for us to crave for or give up. Do your best, each of you, and go wherever circumstances lead.”
Thereupon the disciples made obeisance and withdrew.
The first, and apparently the only published translation into English of the Sutra of Wei Lang (Hui Neng) was completed by the late Mr. Wong Mou-Lam in 1930, and published in the form of a 4to paper-covered book by the Yu Ching Press of Shanghai. Copies were imported to London a few dozen at a time by the Buddhist Lodge, London (now the Buddhist Society, London), until 1939, when the remaining stock was brought to England and soon sold out. The demand, however, has persisted; hence this new edition.
Three courses were open to the present publishers, to republish the translation as it stood, with all its imperfections, to prepare an entirely new translation, with commentary, or to ‘polish up’ the existing version without in any way altering the sense. As the first seemed undesirable, and the second impracticable at the present time, the third course was adopted.
As Mr. Wong Mou-Lam has since passed away, to the great loss of Western scholarship, it has been impossible to invoke his approval of the revisions made in his text. I have therefore scrupulously avoided any re-writing or even paraphrasing, and knowing how many users of the Sutra had learnt whole passages of its somewhat quaint phraseology by heart, I have confined myself to the minimum of alterations.
A few words were so obviously incorrect, due to the translator’s imperfect knowledge of English, that I have substituted others which I am sure he would have approved. I have improved the punctuation, sequence of tenses, and certain awkward or clumsy phrasing, in the course of which I noted how the translator’s grasp of English improved as the work went on.
It will be noticed how Mr. Wong Mou-Lam assisted his readers to grasp the meaning of certain key terms, such as Prajna, Samadhi and dhyana, without offering any single English term as a final equivalent. Sometimes he gives the Sankrit word with one English meaning after it in brackets; later he gives a different English word with the Sankrit term in brackets after it. Thus the meaning of the word is built up in the reader’s mind in part at least of its manifold complexity. Later in the work he tends to leave the word untranslated, as though satisfied that the student had learnt what it meant in the original. It may be helpful to remind readers that the Sankrit term, Dhyana, was corrupted in China into Ch’an, and in Japan into Zen.
On the rare occasions on which the actual meaning of a passage was in doubt I have compared it with the late Mr. Dwight Goddard’s version, which first appeared in A Buddhist Bible,published by him at Thetford, Vermont, U.S.A., in 1932. This edition was admittedly only ‘based upon’ the translation of Mr. Wong Mou-Lam, and though it was meant to be ‘more readable,’ it varies at times from the original meanings as well as form, to my mind without adequate reason. I have nevertheless found this edition of occasional assitance, and have incorporated Mr. Goddard’s valuable note on page 92.
I have somewhat shortened the original Preface of Mr. Dih Ping Tsze, the translator’s patron and inspirer, but left in most of his valuable footnotes.
Mr. Alan Watts, the author of the Spirit of Zen, and other works on Zen Buddhism, has pressed for the adoption of the Sixth Patriarch’s name as Hui Neng, instead of Wei Lang. It is true that he is so referred to by such authorities as Professor D. T. Suzuki, but most Western students already know the work as the Sutra of Wei Lang, and the translator used this dialect rendering throughout the work. I have therefore kept to the name best known to Western readers, adding the alternative rendering for those who know him better as Hui Neng. In Japan he is known as Eno, or Yeno.
Several scholars having pointed out that my reading of “Vehicle” for “Gem or Treasure” in the original title of the Suta was due to a misprint in the word provided, I have taken the first opportunity to restore the original translation. I have likewise, at the suggestion of the late Mr. A. J. Hamester of the Hague, who worked on the MS with the late Ven. Fa Fang in Ceylon, altered the transcription of various Sanskrit terms to accord with modern usage, and corrected a number of minor mistakes.
For the rest, this unique work, ‘the only Sutra spoken by a native of China,’ may be left to speak for itself in the form in which Mr. Wong Mou-Lam gave it us. May it play its part in guiding Western thought and action into the Middle Way which leads to peace and to the heart’s enlightenment.
[*] Note: In this electronic edition, the Chinese proper names have been changed into Pinyin, the Chinese romanization system used universally. Exceptions include the names of the translator and the commentator.
It has long been my desire to have this Sutra translated into a European language so that the message of Zen may be transmitted to the West. The idea obsessed me unremittingly for nearly thirty years, as I could not find a translator to undertake the work until I met Mr. Wong last spring. In an ecstacy of joy, I invited him to stay in my house to translate this Sutra into English. Working on and off, it took him nearly a year and a half to complete the translation. My desire is now fulfilled, and may it prove to be one of the happiest events during the period of the past twelve hundred years.
Now, since an attempt has been made to disseminate this Good Law to the West, I look forward to the day when Europe and America will produce a type of Zen follower whose quick understanding and spontaneous realization in the solution of the ‘Ultimate Problem’ will be far superior to our Eastern brethren. Thinking that I have connected the most favourable link with the Occidentals, my happiness is beyond measure.
Dih Ping Tsze
Shanghai, March, 1930.
This is an English translation of the Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch on the High Seat of the Treasure of the Law (Nanjio’s Catalogue No. 1525) which records the sermons and the sayings of Wei Lang (638-713), the most famous Dhyana Master of the Tang Dynasty. It may be of interest to note that of all the Chinese works which have been canonized in the Tripitaka, this standard work of the Dhyana School is the only one that bears the designation of ‘Sutra,’ a designation which is reserved for the sermons of Lord Buddha and those of great Bodhisattvas. Hence, it is not without justification to call it, as some one does, ‘the only Sutra spoken by a native of China.’
As it takes a poet to translate Virgil, the translator keenly realizes how incompetent he is in tackling this difficult task, since neither his knowledge of Buddhism nor his linguistic attainment qualifies him for the work. He reluctantly agreed, however, to bring out an English version of this Sutra, when urged to do so by his teacher, who admits the incompetence of his pupil but still insists that the translation should be done for the following reasons :-
(1) That in training himself as a translator for Buddhist work in the future, this is a good excercise.
(2) That the translation may receive the benefit of correction and revision from the hands of those who have better qualifications, but not enough time to do the complete work themselves.
(3) That, with due allowance for mistranslation, the book may still be useful to those who cannot read the original, but who had mastered it so well in their previous lives that they only need a paragraph or two, nay even a word or two, to refreah their memory in order to bring back the valuable knowledge that they have now forgotten.
On this understanding alone the translator undertakes the work, and the result of his feeble attempt is now put before the public for what it is worth. As the book stands, the translator knows to his sorrow that the greater part of it will be jargon to readers who have had no previous knowledge of the Dhyana School. May the day come soon when either the translator himself or some other full-fledged Dhyana Master will bring out a new translation with copious notes and explanations, so that the Sutra may be readable by all.
It is from Dr. Ting Fo Po’s edition that this translation is made. To this learned gentleman, whose commentaries the translator has made free use of, and to other friends who have given him valuable advice and liberal support he wished to express his deepest gratitude.
Shanghai, November 21st, 1929
Sutra Of Hui Neng
Gaze into the Emptiness, the illusory changings of this world.
Enter the Emptiness. Others have. It’s not so hard.
Is there any place that’s unreachable when you make the effort?
Don’t be left behind because you’ve confused yourself over this.
Here! Let me rap you on the head with my stick!
Shut up, foolish face! Stop talking a minute!
Don’t be so quick to argue!
The mystery is so exquisite! It can’t be discussed!
Yes, I recite the Buddha’s name… or is the Buddha reciting mine?
What’s the recitation for anyway?
There’s only One Heart and It’s in the Pure Land.
The Buddha is my own True Nature.
The Buddha and me! We’re one, not two. So are you!
You’re chanting to this? You are this!
Come, hold on to this reality! Don’t be swept away into illusion.
History is an endless lie.
Let today be the day that the clouds and fog lift.
Don’t let a wisp of them remain.
Let your body live here, but keep your spirit evanescent.
See that when it’s free,
It can’t be bogged down into those old familiar ruts
Celebration of Wesak by By Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda
Birth of a Noble Prince. Wesak Day holds special significance for the millions of Buddhist who comprise a fifth of the world’s total population. In thousands of temples across the world from Tokyo in the East to San Francisco in the West, Buddhists will pay homage to an Indian Prince who forsook the pleasures of a royal household to bring peace and happiness to mankind. The Buddha, or the Supremely Enlightened One was born in 623 B.C. on a Wesak Full-Moon day. The young Prince was named Siddhartha or “the one who has brought about all good.” His parents, King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya, ruled a small kingdom called Kapilavattu in Northern India.
It is said that when he was born an ancient sage called Asita came to visit him. The sage took the child in his arms and first smiled, then wept. Questioned about his extra-ordinary behaviour the sage explained that he smiled because the Child would one day become the Greatest Teacher the
world have ever known and he wept because he would not live long enough to see the boy grow up.
A Prince of Superior Intelligence Siddharta Gautama was provided with all the worldly comforts that could be provided in a royal palace. His parents shielded him from the harsh realities of the outside world. He excelled in sports and showed a very superior intelligence but he was not satisfied with such fleeting pleasures.
He was usually a meditative person. One day he noticed a frog about to be swallowed by a snake. Just then an eagle swooped and flew away with the snake and the frog on its mouth. This set him thinking: that human life was the same whereby the stronger was constantly destroying the weaker in never ending succession. This made him realize the happiness could only be found when this battle for survival could be ended.
One day, when he was outside the palace gates, he sighted an old man bent with age, a sick man and a corpse. The young Prince was horrified when he learnt that the human body which was so well cared for in youth could be subjected to the ravages of age, disease and death. He started to contemplate deeply and was determined to seek a panacea for such sufferings.
The Prince also saw an ascetic, dressed in simple clothes but glowing with the inner peace of one who had given up his worldly passions. He was deeply impressed by the sense of happiness and calm that the ascetic radiated.
Upon his return to the palace, the young Siddarta, then aged 29 years, decided that he would give up all the temporal power that he was heir to and seek answers to the questions that troubled him. What was the cause of human sufferings? What was the path to happiness?
He went to many teachers but wise as they were, their wisdom was limited. They could not help him to gain the Enlightenment that he was searching. So he decided to seek the path on his own. The struggle for realization of the truth took him six long years. One of the first lessons he learnt was to seek the Middle Path: that is not to go extreme. He felt that we should not indulge too much in worldly pleasures or subject ourselves to extreme austerities. In order to calm the mind to gain purification one must be moderate in all aspects.
Realization of the Truths He realized that man’s ignorance is the root of all misery. Man’s clinging to an illusion of the ego creates desire to satisfy the concept of self. The basis of his teaching is the Four Noble Truths; The first is the Noble Truth of suffering. Life is filled with the miseries of old age, sickness, death and unhappiness. People chase after pleasure but only end up with more sufferings, pain and unsatisfactoriness. The second is the Noble Truth on the cause of suffering. The third is Noble Truth on the End of suffering. When desire is eliminated, suffering will cease. And the fourth Noble Truth is the PATH which leads to the end of suffering.
He then explained the Path which is the Noble Eightfold Path as:-
Buddha’s Enlightenment Finally, on the 35th anniversary of his birth, again on the full-moon day of Wesak, and seated under a Bodhi tree* in Buddha Gaya the ascetic Siddarta become the Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One. For the next forty-five years the Buddha traveled around Northern India preaching His message of Loving-Kindness for all beings and realization of the nature of existence.
1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
The Buddha’s Passing Away As with all other great religious teachers the Buddha found opposition to his teachings. But many saw the truth of His Teachings and followed Him, learning how to lead a proper religious life and free themselves from misery of existence. Finally, after forty-five years of preaching, lying under two beautiful sala trees, before a large assembly of monks, the Buddha passed away at Kusinara. This passing away is also known as Mahaparinibbana or the attainment of ultimate peace and bliss. This great event also occurred on the full-moon day of Wesak. The Buddhist Era begins from the Mahaparinibbana – Passing away of the Buddha.
A Thrice Sacred Day Hence on Wesak Day, Buddhists all over the world commemorate three events: The Birth, Enlightenment and the Passing Away of Gautama the Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India to all parts of the world, the teachings were readily assimilated with the cultures of the people who accepted the teachings. As a result, Buddhist art and culture took on a rich variety of forms with profound gentleness and kindness as the Buddha expressly forbade the use of force. The practice of Buddhism was adapted in many ways to suit the nature of the various cultures that accepted it.
As a result of this, Wesak is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. But in essence many practices have become universal. It is most important to remember that this sacred day is purely and simply a religious festival
and not a festive occasion for feasting, drinking and dancing. On this day all Buddhists are expected to reaffirm their faith in the Buddha Dhamma and to lead a noble religious life. It is a day for meditation and for radiating Loving-Kindness.
How to celebrate Wesak On Wesak day, devout Buddhists are expected to assemble in various temples before dawn for the ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist Flag and the singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple GEM: The Buddha, The Dhamma (His Teaching), and The Sangha (His disciples).
Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their great teacher. These symbolic offerings are to remind one that just as the beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while and the candles and joss-sticks would soon burn out, life is subject to decay and destruction in similar manner as the flowers, candles and joss-sticks. Devotees are advised to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind. They are encouraged to partake of vegetarian food for the day. In some countries notably Sri Lanka, two days are set aside for celebration of Wesak and all liquor shops and slaughter houses are closed by government decree during the two days. Birds and animals are also released by the thousands in a symbolic act of liberation, of giving freedom to those who are in captivity. However, it is not recommended that birds be released in the heart of crowded cities, because by doing so we may cause harm to the poor bewildered birds which are unable to fly far after a long period of captivity. Unscrupulous bird dealers would recapture such birds for resale to well meaning devotees. If birds are to be released it is recommended that this to be done in rural areas where the birds can achieve real freedom. Some devout Buddhist will wear simple white dress and spend the whole day in the temples with renewed determination to observe the Precepts. Wesak is a day for meditation and observance of the Eight Precepts.
Devout Buddhists understand how to lead a noble life according to the Teaching by making daily affirmation to observe the five Precepts. However, on special days, notably new moon and full moon days, they observe additional disciplines to train themselves to practice morality, simplicity and humility.
The Eight Precepts to be observed only on full moon days are:
1. Not to kill
2. Not to steal
3. To observe celibacy
4. Not to indulge in wrong speech
5. Not to take intoxicating drinks and drugs
6. To abstain from taking food at unreasonable time
7. To refrain from immoral and illicit pleasures
8. To refrain from using high seats in order to practice humility.
Devotees are expected to listen to talks given by monks well versed in the deepest philosophies of the religion. On this day monks will recite verses uttered by the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, to invoke peace and happiness for the Government and the people. Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony with people of other faiths and to respect the beliefs of other people as the Buddha had taught.
Bringing Happiness to Others Celebrating Wesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. To this end, Buddhists will distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughout the country. Wesak is also a time for great joy and happiness. But this joy is expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites only but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of the Buddha for public dissemination. Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to devotees who visit the temple to pay homage to the Blessed One.
Proper Way To Pay Homage To The Buddha The Buddha himself has given invaluable advice on how to pay homage to Him. Just before He passed away, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even His own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard His teachings (The Dhamma) as their Teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma TRUTH is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings.
This is how we should celebrate Wesak: use this opportunity to reiterate our determination to lead noble lives, to develop our minds, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to all mankind.
MAY WESAK, THE THRICE SACRED DAY BRING PEACE AND HAPPINESS TO EACH AND EVERYONE.
Buddha, In all worlds everywhere none is comparable.
Everywhere in the world I have seen without exception, There is nothing whatsoever like Buddha.
Homage to the Guidance of this Saha World and three realms,
Benevolent Father to all beings, Founder of the religion,
Our Original teacher, in three categories of transformation, Shakyamuni Buddha.
_/\_ NA MO BEN SHI SHI JIA MOU NI FO!
I now bathe the Tathagata
His pure wisdom adorns the sea of virtue
May all living beings of this period of the five
Impurities be rid of all defilements!
Together, may we all witness the pure Dharma body of the Tathagata!
2011 Vesak / 2011 Wesak Celebration In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India
Vesak is an annual public holiday observed traditionally by practicing Buddhists in South Asian and South East Asian countries like Nepal, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Pakistan and India. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s birthday,” it actually encompasses the birth, enlightenment Nirvana, and passing (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha.
When Is Vesak 2011 / Wesak 2011?
Vesak Day 2011
When is Vesak 2011? Vesak 2011 falls on Tuesday, 17 May 2011, which is the 15th day in the 4th month of Chinese lunar calendar. However, some countries observes the Vesak Day 2011 on different dates.
Vesak Day 2012
When is Vesak 2012? Vesak 2012 falls on Saturday, 5 May 2012, which is the 15th day in the 4th month of Chinese lunar calendar. However, some countries observes the Vesak Day 2012 on different dates.
Date Of Vesak Day
Vesak 2011 is celebrated by Buddhist around the world, and in different manners all over the world. Though some countries occasionally use different date for this festival, many would fall on the same day.
The exact date of Vesak Day varies according to the various lunar calendars used in different countries and traditions. In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on the full moon Uposatha day (typically the 5th or 6th lunar month). Vesak Day in China, Hong Kong and Macau is on the eighth of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
Thus the date varies from year to year, but as general consensus in many countries, falls on the full-month day in May.
The decision to agree to celebrate the Vesak as the Buddha’s birthday was formalized at the first Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka in 1950, although festivals at this time in the Buddhist world are a centuries-old tradition. The Resolution that was adopted at the World Conference reads as follows:
“That this Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, while recording its appreciation of the gracious act of His Majesty, the Maharaja of Nepal in making the full-moon day of Vesak a Public Holiday in Nepal, earnestly requests the Heads of Governments of all countries in which large or small number of Buddhists are to be found, to take steps to make the full-moon day in the month of May a Public Holiday in honour of the Buddha, who is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest benefactors of Humanity.”
Vesak Day Around The World
Vesak Day is often referred to with other names in each country. Official names of Vesak Day are Vesākha, Vesak, Wesak, Waisak, Visakah Puja, Vaishaka, Buddha Purnima, Visakha Bucha, Saga Dawa, 佛誕 (fó dàn), Phật Đản, and วิสาขบูชา
In Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the holiday is known by its Sanskrit name, वैशाख Vaiśākha, and derived variants of it. Vesākha is known as Vesak or Wesak (衛塞節) in the Sinhalese language.
It is also known as:
* बुद्ध पुर्णिमा/বুদ্ধ পূর্ণিমা Buddha Purnima or बुद्ध जयंती/বুদ্ধ জয়ন্তী Buddha Jayanti in India, Bangladesh and Nepal
* 花祭 (Hanamatsuri) in Japan,
* 석가 탄신일 Seokka Tanshin-il (Hanja: 釋迦誕身日) in Korean (Korea),
* 佛誕 (Mandarin: Fódàn, Cantonese: Fātdàahn) in Chinese-speaking communities in China, Singapore, Taiwan.
* Phật Đản in Vietnamese (Vietnam),
* ས་ག་ཟླ་བ། Saga Dawa (sa ga zla ba) in Tibetan (Tibet),
* (Kasone la-pyae Boda nei), lit. “Full Moon Day of Kason,” the second month of the traditional Burmese calendar (Burma)
* វិសាខបូជា Visak Bochéa in Khmer (Cambodia),
* ວິຊຂບູຊ Vixakha Bouxa in Laotian (Laos)
* วันวิสาขบูชา Visakah Puja, Vesakha Puja, or Visakha Bucha in Thai (Thailand),
* Waisak in Indonesia,
* වෙසක් පසළොස්වක පෝය Vesak / Wesak in Sri Lanka and Malaysia
Singapore Vesak 2011
The Vesak Day is an extremely important occasion observed in Singapore. Huge crowds will usually assemble at various Buddhist temples around the city. Inside the Buddha temples the monks chant sacred hymns and a large number of devotees set caged-birds free. Setting the imprisoned birds free is considered as a graceful gesture which serves as a mark of respect to all living creatures in the world. On this day, Singapore Buddhist youths organize blood donation camps and distribute gifts to the poor people. During the evenings, candlelit processions are found walking across the streets of Singapore and this is how the festival is ended.
You can observe the Vesak Day festival in Singapore for free as people can enter the temples free of charge. Some of the best points in the city for observing the festivities of Vesak Day in Singapore are the Buddhist Lodge at River Valley Road, The Thai Buddhist Temple at Jalan Bukit Merah and Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple at Jalan Toa Payoh.
The Singapore Vesak Day is always celebrated in the month of May and is a yearly event. Vesak 2011 is celebrated on 17 May 2011 in Singapore.
Hari Waisak 2011 In Indonesia
Hari Waisak celebrations in Indonesia generally follows the decision of The World Fellowship of Buddhists. Hari Waisak 2011 in Indonesia will be celebrated on Tuesday, 17 May 2011. Traditionally, the celebration is focused nationally on the complex of Borobudur Temple in Central Java.
Rituals of national Waisak (Vesak) celebration in Indonesia usually observe following ceremonies:
1. Taking blessed water from the spring of Jumprit in Temanggung Country and torch ignition with the eternal flame of Mrapen, Grobogan County.
2. “Pindatapa” ritual, a ritual of giving food to the monks by the congregation to remind that the monks had devoted his life without livelihoods.
3. Meditation on the peak of the full moon. Determination of the full moon is based on the calculation of astronomy, so that the peak of the full moon can also occur during the daytime.
Besides the three main ceremonies, other Waisak ceremonies that were also conducted are pradaksina, parades, and art events.
2011 Wesak Day in Malaysia
Wesak Day is the most important festivals of the Buddhists in Malaysia and fall in the month of May. In Malaysia, 2011 Wesak (Vesak) Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, May 17th 2011.
Vesak is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha because according to Buddhists, all the three events took place on the same lunar date.
The Wesak day celebrations begins much before the dawn when the Malaysian Buddhist devotees gather in Buddhist temples for worship all over Malaysia. The Buddhists will then hoist the Buddhist flag and sing hymns in praise of the holy triple gem namely; The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings) and The Sangha (his disciples). The celebration is done with prayers, chants, offerings and giving alms. Simple offerings are also brought to the temple such as flowers while prayers using candles and joss-sticks are used.
The Buddhist eat a vegetarian diet prior to the festival in order to cleanse and purify themselves. Animals such as doves and tortoises are released by the Malaysian Buddhist devotees on the Wesak Day as a symbolic gesture of releasing the soul and giving up the past sins. Besides that, this particular act is also seen as a way of giving freedom for those that are held against their will or being tortured. Free meals are also given to the needy on the Wesak Day.
Wesak 2011 in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka the Wesak Festival is celebrated as a religious and a cultural festival in Sri Lanka on the full moon of the month of May, for two days. In Sri Lanka, Wesak 2011 will be celebrated from Tuesday, May 17th 2011 to Wednesday, May 18th 2011.
During these two days, the selling of alcohol and flesh is prohibited by government decree. As a symbolic act of liberation, birds, insects and animals are released in huge numbers.
Celebrations include various religious and alms giving activities. Electrically lit pandols called toranas are erected in various locations in Colombo and elsewhere, most sponsored by donors, religious societies and welfare groups. Each pandol illustrates a story from the 550 Jataka Katha or the 550 Past Life Stories of the Buddha.
In addition, colourful lanterns called Vesak koodu are hung along streets and in front of homes. They signify the light of the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha. Many devout Buddhists wear simple white dresses on Vesak Day and spend the whole day in temples with renewed determination to observe the observance of the Eight Precepts of Buddhism.
Vesak celebration also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the people in more straightened circumstances. Food stalls set up by Buddhist devotees called dansälas provide free food and drinks to passersby. Groups of people from various community organisations, businesses and government departments sing bhakti gee or Buddhist devotional songs. Colombo experiences a massive influx of public from all parts of the country during this week.
2011 Buddha Purnima in India
In India, Vesak Day is known as Buddha Purnima. On this day, Buddhists do not eat meat. This is considered an act of compassion towards animals. People are encouraged to perform other acts of kindness such as sharing food with the poor. Some people even set up road stalls providing free, clean drinking water. Buddha Purnima 2011 will be celebrated on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 in India.
Birth of Buddha or Tathagata is celebrated in India, especially in Sikkim, Ladakh , Arunachal Pradesh, Bodh Gaya and Maharashtra (where 6% of total population are Buddhists) and other parts of India as per Indian calendar. Buddhist People go to common Viharas to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, as something like a service. The usual dress is pure white. Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who, in Gautama Buddha’s life, offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge.
The Buddhists bathe and dress only in white clothes. They gather in their viharas (monasteries) before sunrise to worship Buddha, offer alms to the bhikshus (monks), hoist the Buddhist flag, and sing hymns admiring the sacred triple treasure: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples).
Many devotees offer flowers, candles, and joss sticks at the feet of the monks. Such a ritual allows a Buddhist to reflect on the truth that just as the magnificent flowers shrink and the candles and joss sticks burn out in short time, our life span is too short and will decay soon.
Several followers listen to the continuous speech on the life and preaching of the Buddha throughout the day or request monks to come to their homes. Buddhist monks recite 2500 years old verses obtained from Buddha and urge people to respect other religions.
2011 Hanamatsuri in Japan
In Japan, Vesākha or hanamatsuri (花祭) is also known as: Kanbutsu-e (灌仏会), Goutan-e (降誕会), Busshou-e (仏生会), Yokubutsu-e (浴仏会), Ryuge-e (龍華会), Hana-eshiki (花会式). It is not a public holiday. It is based on a legend that a dragon appeared in the sky on his birthday and poured soma over him.
It used to be celebrated on the 8th day of the fourth month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, based on one of the legends that proclaims the day as Buddha’s birthday. At present, the celebration is observed on April 8 of the Solar Calendar since the Meiji government adopted the western solar calendar as the official calendar. Since the 8th day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar commonly falls in May of the current solar calendar, it is now celebrated about a month earlier. Thus in Japan, 2011 Vesak Day will be celebrated on Friday, 8th April 2011.
In Japan, the general populace are not practicing Buddhists (and may be called casual Buddhists), so most Buddhist temples provide a way to allow the general public to celebrate and participate in only the aspect of the day being Buddha’s birthday, providing the statue of baby Buddha and allowing the populace to worship or pay respect by pouring ama cha, a tea made of Hydrangea. In Buddhist temples, monasteries and nunneries, more involved ceremonies are conducted for practicing Buddhists, priests, monks and nuns. Also, there are public festivals made out of the day in some areas.
2011 Visakha Bucha in Thailand
In Thailand, where majority of the population are buddhists, ach year, the nationwide festival of Vesak Day is held to pay tribute to the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. The Vesak Day will fall on Tuesday, May 17th 2011, however celebrations can be seen for more than a week.
In Thailand, people will congregate around the Buddhist temples to pray and give thanks to the deity on the Vesak Day. Monks dressed in their saffron robes will lead sermons and services throughout the day, with candlelit processions often taking place once night has fallen.
2011 Buddha Poornima in Nepal
The birth of the Buddha is often celebrated by Buddhists in Nepal for an entire month in the Buddhist calendar. The actual day is called Buddha Poornima (or Buddha Purnima), also traditionally known as Vaishakh Poornima. In 2011, the Buddha Poornima will fall on Tuesday, 17 May 2011.
The event is celebrated by gentle and serene fervour, keeping in mind the very nature of Buddhism. People, especially women, go to common Viharas to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, as something like a service. The usual dress is pure white. Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who, in Gautama Buddha’s life, offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge after he had given up the path of asceticism following six years of extreme austerity. This event was one major link in his enlightenment.
It is said that the Buddha originally followed the way of asceticism to attain enlightenment sooner, as was thought by many at that time. He sat for a prolonged time with inadequate food and water, which caused his body to shrivel so as to be indistinguishable from the bark of the tree that he was sitting under. Seeing the weak Siddhartha Gautama, a girl named Sujata placed a bowl of milk in front of him as an offering. Realizing that without food one can do nothing, the Buddha refrained from harming his own body.
2011 Buddha Birthday in China, Hongkong and Taiwan
In the Chinese speaking countries of Hongkong, China, as well as Taiwan, the Vesak Day called Guanfo (bathing the Buddha) or Yufo (Buddha’s birthday celebration featuring washing Buddha image with perfumed water). The celebrations begin before sunrise and devotees throng the temples early at dawn to meditate. Chanshi (the ceremony of chanting the sutras and confession and prayer) is practiced by monks.
As the day progresses, Buddhist devotees visit orphanages, welfare homes, homes for the aged and charitable institutions to distribute cash donations and gifts to the needy. On this occasion, caged birds are freed to symbolize humanity and compassion.
The celebration is also marked with the devotees performing the “bathing Buddha” ritual where they held a wooden ladle and poured water over a small statue of the Buddha. Bathing a statue of the Buddha symbolizes a fresh start in life and the care given to newborn babies.
Legend has it that when the historical Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, was born, there were auspicious signs heralding his birth. They describe the sky as blue and clear on his birth, with dragons spurting purified water to bathe him. Since then, Buddhists have celebrated his birthday by using fragrant water to bathe the image of Buddha.
In these East Asia countries, Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Thus in 2011, the Buddha birthday falls on Tuesday, 10th May 2011.
2011 Buddha Birthday in South Korea
In Korea the birthday of Buddha is celebrated according to the Lunisolar calendar. This day is called 석가탄신일 (Seokga tansinil), meaning “the day of Buddha’s birthday” or 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonim osin nal) meaning “the day when Buddha arrived”. Lotus lanterns cover the entire temple throughout the month which are often flooded down the street. On the day of Buddha’s birth, many temples provide free meals and tea to all visitors. The breakfast and lunch provided are often sanchae bibimbap.
In 2011, South Korea will celebrate the Buddha Birthday on Tuesday, 10th May 2011. source
Happy Wesak 2011 ! Happy Vesak 2011 !
“Enough, Ananda, do not weep and wail! Have I not already told you that all things that are pleasant and delightful are changeable, subject to separation and becoming other?” DN 16.5.14.
“Ananda, for what I have taught and explained to you as Dhamma and discipline will, at my passing, be your teacher.” DN 16.6.1.
The Buddha’s last words, “Now, monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay – strive on untiringly.” DN 16.6.7.
Doing the best we can always entails seeing where we can do better. This is what is meant by “always being disturbed by the Truth.” As we view the imperfections of our actions, we are allowed to see with the eyes of the Buddha:
“That which understands error is not itself in error”
So one of the merits of our training is to be aware of the places where we need to purify our heart, and if we view this with the eyes of compassion, we will also see that what we have done in the past was the best that we could have done for that time. And now in the present moment, we may be able to do a bit better by acting with greater compassion, love and wisdom
” Most people read a book with words but not one without words, and they can play a lyre with strings but not one without strings. How can they derive tranquil pleasure from a book or a lyre, when they exercise their intelligence only on the material, but not the spiritual, aspect of things ? ”
The use of guilt here is not referring to the mere fact of being guilty of something, but it refers toseeing or projecting one’s mistakes, while not knowing what to do about them or refusing to correct them.
In this definition, guilt is a negative, paralysing emotion, based on non-acceptance of oneself or the situation, and it leads to depression and frustration rather than change or improvement.
Guilt is usually a negative focus upon oneself: “I am an evil person. I can’t bear myself. I am unworthy.” While this response may appear in a religious guise, it often turns out to be a form of self-deprecating laziness. This can even lead to self-hatred, and certainly contributes to lack of self-confidence. Instead of recognising that ones actions are incorrect, one gets the feeling as if one is unworthy, as if “I” is intrinsically bad.
In Buddhism such type of guilt is categorised as a disturbing attitude: one doesn’t see the situation clearly and may well be a tricky form of self-centredness.
A personal opinion: within the Western mind, I believe that guilt has such a prominent place because of the Judeo/Christian background of our culture. The concept of being born onto the earth with an “original sin” – for which we personally are not even responsible – easily puts a feeling of guilt in our minds (I am bad, even without doing anything wrong). Furthermore, the presentations in several Christian traditions can give one the impression that one should feel guilty and ashamed even for simply having fun. I believe that this type of guilt is a learned, socially imposed emotion; for example, Tibetans do not even have a word for it! If that is correct, it is not even a basic human emotion, but a culturally imposed type of mental frustration; which means that we can relatively easy overcome it by un-learning this artificial emotion.
Although guilt is not seen as a very positive emotion, repentence is seen as very important factor to improve our ways of thinking and behaving. The positive/transforming aspect of guilt can be that we admit our mistakes, ponder over them and motivate ourselves to not repeat negative actions – repentence.
For all the evil deeds I have done in the past,
Created by my body, speech and mind,
From beginningless greed, hatred and delusion,
I now know shame and repent them all.
Traditional Repentance Verse from
“The Practices & Vows of Samantabadra Bodhisattva”
(Avatamsaka Sutra, Chapter 40)
“The above is perhaps the simplest but most widely practised verse of repentance. The practice of Buddhist repentance is not so much the asking for divine forgiveness. It is the clear recognition of our unskilful actions done intentionally or unmindfully through our body, speech and mind, which are the results of our lack of compassion and wisdom, originating from our attachment, aversion and delusion. After recognising our misgivings, we make resolutions to be as mindful as we can, so as to never repeat them under any circumstances. In this sense, repentance is about forgiving oneself through expressing regret and turning over a new leaf, absolving oneself of unhealthy guilt while renewing determination to further avoid evil, do good and purify the mind with greater diligence.
Traditionally, the practice of repentance is done through chanting relevant sutra verses and bowing before a Buddha image, which represents the presence of the Buddha bearing witness to our sincerity. However, if one has done wrong to someone who is contactable, one should apologise to him or her personally, or the practice of repentance before the Buddha would be rendered a hollow practice lacking in sincerity. Even if the other party is unlikely to forgive us, we should do our part in seeking forgiveness – this is also the practice of humility. Actual remedial action of making up for any physical or psychological damage caused to others is also important – or repentance would literally be merely saying “sorry”.
Repentance should ideally be practised at the end of each day, as we try to recall best we can, any misgivings we have done in the day. For repentance to be more effective, misdeeds should be recalled as specifically as possible, instead of vaguely generalising. Doing this practice daily reduces our repetitive mistakes as it increases our mindfulness the next day. Repentance should also be practised immediately in the moment, without procrastination, when we realise we have just made a mistake. If one’s pride is too strong, one should still make a point to repent later, as soon as possible.
The stronger our sincerity is, the more powerful our repentance becomes. While repentance does not erases our negative karma, it can dissolve its future effects, much like the addition of abundant pure water onto salt, which dissolves the otherwise unbearable saltiness we have to taste. Interestingly, repentance practised well can become meritorious, as it prevents the creation of fresh negative karma which can lead to future suffering, while offering peace of mind to better learn, practise and share the Dharma, thus clearing much of the path to the attainment of Enlightenment.” Shen Shi’an
“If guilt means extending worry about what you have done, then it does not help. Buddhism stresses not guilt but contrition followed by developing an intention of restraint in the future. Simply put, you decide that you have done something wrong and then promise not to do it again. Sometimes, some tangible restituition is possible; for example, you can pay for damages or return stolen property. But often, the action is over and done with. For instance, if you buy something that does not work, you can return it to the store. But, if you misuse time itself, no matter how much you may regret doing so, you cannot return it.
All that is left is an intelligent decision to face what has been done and make a commitment to break the cycle. In meditation, contemplate: “This action was motivated by desire (or hatred) and ignorance; it was wrong, and I do not want to do it again in the future. May I not do it again in the future! I will make sure not to do it again in the future.” It’s a great relief to feel: “Ten years ago I quarreled with so-and-so. It seemed to be the only thing I could do at the time, but with what I know now, I would not do the same today. I will try never to do that again!”
From A Truthful Heart: Buddhist Practices for Connecting with Others by Jeffrey Hopkins
The Rituals and Festivals of the Buddhist Life
by Robert C. Lester
Daily and Periodic Rituals
Merit is made and shared through daily, periodic, and special rituals and yearly festivals. Morning and evening services of chanting or worship take place in every monastery, temple, and home. With the placing of flowers and the lighting of candles and incense before a Buddha-image or some other symbol of the presence of the Buddha, monks chant together and the lay family offers a prayer. The flowers, beautiful one moment and wilted the next, remind the offerers of the impermanence of life; the odor of the incense calls to their mind the sweet scent of moral virtue that emanates from those who are devout; the candle-flame symbolizes enlightenment.
The central daily rite of lay Buddhism is the offering of food. Theravada laity make this offering to the monks. Mahayana laity make it to the Buddha as part of the morning or evening worship. In both settings merit is shared.
The weekly Observance Day rituals at the Theravada monastery are opportunities for both laity and monks to quicken faith, discipline, and understanding, and make and share merit. On these days, twice each month, the monks change and reaffirm the code of discipline. On all of these days, they administer the Eight Precepts to the gathered laity, the laity repeating them after the monks and offer a sermon on the Dharma. The monks our water to transfer merit to the laity; the laity pour water to share this merit with their ancestors.
Zen monks twice each month gather in the Buddha-hall of their head temple and chant for the welfare of the Japanese people. Pure Land Buddhist congregate at the temple once each week to praise Amida.
Rites of Passage
There are special rituals to mark, protect, and bless the occasions of major life transitions. They publicly mark and protect times of passage from one status to another times of unusual vulnerability such as birth, birthdays, coming of age, marriage, the entering into a new house, and death. Monks preside over ordinations, funerals, and death commemoration rites. In the Theravada tradition, ordination is a puberty or coming-of-age rite. Theravada monks also preside over birthday and new-house blessing rites. Ex-monks elders in the lay community perform the rituals for childbirth and marriage.
In Japanese Pure Land, the lay priest presides over rituals of the first presentation of a child at the temple, confirmation of boys and girls at the age of puberty, and death. Japanese Buddhists undertake marriage at the Shinto shrine, presided over by Shinto priests.
Buddhists everywhere celebrate the New Year and the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. The beginning of a new year is, generally, a time for “taking stock” of one’s karma, cleansing, and well-wishing. In Theravada communities the New Year is celebrated in mid-April on the lunar calendar and lasts for two or three days. The laity ritually bathe the Buddha-images and sprinkle water on the monks and the elders, showing respect and offering good wishes. The monks chant blessings on the laity, and together they share the merit of the occasion with the dead. The New Year appropriately begins at the end of the dry season and the beginning of new life in nature. The pouring of water is not only an honoring of the Buddha, the monks, the elders, and the dead but also an offering for plentiful rain and prosperity in the days to come. In Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, the laity build sand mounds (stupas) at the monastery or on the bank of the river. Each grain of sand represents a demerit, and placing the grains in the monastery or letting them be washed away by the river symbolizes a cleansing from bad deeds. Bringing sand to the monastery also serves to renew the floor of the compound.
Zen and Pure Land Buddhists celebrate the New Year on the Western calendar. This is an occasion for Zen monks to publicly read large volumes of sacred sutras, thereby sending out cleansing and enlivening sound waves for the benefit of all beings. Pure Land Buddhist hold special services at the temple twice daily in praise of the Buddha Amida.
Theravada Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha on the same day the full moon of May, called Vaisakha. In Sri Lanka, it is a festival of lights, and house, gardens, and streets are decorated with lanterns. It is not a major festival in other Theravada countries, but, occurring on an Observance Day, it is at least an occasion for special food offerings to the monks and more than the usual devotion to keeping the moral precepts.
Japanese Buddhist celebrate the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment on different days of the year: the birth on April 8, the enlightenment on December 8, and the death on February 15. The birth celebration, Hanamatsuri, is a flower festival and time for ritually bathing images of the Buddha. Enlightenment Day (Bodhi) and Death Day (Nehan [Nirvana]), are simply occasions for social worship.
Theravada Buddhists mark the beginning and end of the rain-retreat, which generally coincide with the beginning and end of the rains. They conclude the year with a harvest festival. Theravada monks enter rain-retreat on the full moon of either June or July. The three- or four-month period is a time of relative austerity for both laity and monks.
The monks remain in the monastery, spending more than the usual time in study and meditation. No marriages or public entertainments occur in the lay community and the laity are more devout in their attendance of Observance Day ceremonies and in their daily food offerings. The Observance Day on which rain-retreat commences is generally occasion for the entire lay community to offer food and many more than usual undertake to spend the day at the monastery, keeping the monastic precepts.
The full-moon observance with which the rain-retreat ends is much like that with which it begins, with the exception that the monks gather privately and invite each other to point out infractions of the monastic code during the retreat period. The mood of this observance is a happy one the rains have ended (usually), the monks may again move about, and public celebrations are in order. The month that follows, mid-October to mid-November, is the time for Kathina, the offering of cloth from which the monks prepare new robes. Kathina offerings are typically a group effort of an entire village, a lay association for merit making, a government agency, or the employees of a prominent commercial establishment. Typically, the group approaches the monastery in joyful procession. Upon arrival, the presiding monk administers the Five Precepts to the laity, receives the cloth, and declares the great merit of such offerings. The monks jointly chant a blessing verse and the laity pour water, symbolically transferring apportion of the merit to the ancestors.
Theravada Buddhist honor and transfer merit to their ancestors on every occasion of merit making and sharing. Japanese Buddhist give special honor and merit to their ancestors three times each year: on the spring and autumn equinoxes in March and September and during the month July 15-August 15. The equinox festivals, called Higan, “Other Shore,” mark times of transition in nature and therefore are occasions to reflect on the passage of time and the progress of being toward enlightenment — the other shore.
The Body of the Buddha permeates the universe;
it manifests itself in front of all of us;
there is no place where it does not so manifest itself;
it does so for every relationship and in all need
yet it is still in its own true place;
the seas of its merit cannot be counted.1
The Buddhist practice of transferring merit comes out of the understanding that there is value or merit in our spiritual practice. The law of karma states simply that our actions, all intentional or volitional actions, have a moral and spiritual effect or result. Sometimes these are discussed as good and bad, but this is misleading in that there is no judgment in the impersonal workings of the law of karma. We frequently discuss the harmful effects because they are so painfully evident as suffering in our daily lives. We want to learn how to deal effectively with this suffering and convert it into understanding so as not to continue the endless cycle of birth and death. Since enlightened action leaves no wake, it frequently goes unnoticed. We do not often see or discuss the actions that cause merit or good karma. It is also important to note that actions that tend to cause good karma, if done for the selfish purpose of getting a spiritual reward may have an effect that will not necessarily appear to the recipient as if it were a reward. I remember a story from India about the various effects of those who removed a banana peel from a path. Of course the one who carelessly left it there or those who ignored it got no reward; the man who carefully removed it for the purpose of receiving a reward was reborn in a less fortunate state, while the playful child who, almost unconsciously, kicked it aside was saved from being struck by a tumbling stone on the very same path in a future birth. The sage, who moved it aside without thought of reward or punishment, just doing what needs to be done, received the highest reward of spiritual blessings.2From this it is important to see that the physical action is not the chief factor in the workings of the law of karma, but rather the state of mind of the actor at the time of the acting. It is also important that we do not perform spiritual service for the purpose of some selfish reward. The Buddhist act of transferring the merit of services expresses the desire for selfless service. The Tibetan ( * edited by me : all schools teach ,not just Tibetan Buddhism) Buddhist teach that all suffering is created by the desire to seek pleasure for ourselves while all happiness is created in selfless service to others.
We should know that some actions such as our meditation, religious ceremonies or services, rosary recitation, and all actions done with a pure heart and with the intention of keeping the Precepts result in merit, value or reward. The merit does not make us rich or famous; these things need to be forsaken utterly if we are to know the Truth and have real peace in our lives. The merit we gain is in doing the best we can for the benefit of all living things.
Doing the best we can always entails seeing where we can do better. This is what is meant by “always being disturbed by the Truth.” As we view the imperfections of our actions, we are allowed to see with the eyes of the Buddha: “That which understands error is not itself in error”3 So one of the merits of our training is to be aware of the places where we need to purify our heart, and if we view this with the eyes of compassion, we will also see that what we have done in the past was the best that we could have done for that time. And now in the present moment, we may be able to do a bit better by acting with greater compassion, love and wisdom.
“The four wisdoms, charity, tenderness, benevolence, and sympathy are the means we have of helping others and represent the Bodhisattva’s aspirations” [Italics added.]4The transferring of merit is a way of expressing all of the four wisdoms simultaneously. After daily meditation and Morning Service we offer the merit of the service to the Buddhas and Ancestors. In the Ceremony honoring the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokiteshwara, we offer the merit to the Bodhisattva to further her work of hearing the cries of the world. In the Founder’s Ceremony we are doing a memorial, offering the merit to the founder of the monastery, or church. In addition “we pray that the merits thereof shall not only be given to our founder, but light the way of all who have not yet found the Truth.” In the Midday Service we offer the merits of the ceremony to all so that they may be able to realize the Truth. (A common mistake that is made in reciting this offering is that the word “they” is emphasized as if there were some difference between them and us. Anyone who knows the Truth knows that there is a fundamental unity with all life; although we get individually the results of our past karma, the Buddha’s enlightenment was, is and will always be universal. This is expressed as knowing that all is one and all is different.) In transferring merit to all, we must first be doing the best meditation we can to act in harmony with the four wisdoms. Thus transferring merit is the gift of our daily services and expresses charity. Instead of doing our meditation and services for our own benefit, we are willing to offer up that merit to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Ancestors to use as best they can. Although charity is usually thought of as giving material possessions, wealth or property to others, it can also be seen in giving our time and energy to help others, and also in our spiritual efforts. The lifelong commitment to selfless service is the reason for Buddhist monasticism. Lay Buddhists express this in the taking of the Precepts at Lay Ordination.
Merit can also be transferred to specific individuals. This is done at the funeral and memorials done for a dead friend or relative. Rosary recitation can also be done for specific people or animals who are in spiritual need, suffering from acute trauma, illness or accident, or who are dying or recently dead. The Ceremony of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts is used as a memorial for those who hunger for the Truth as well as specifically named individuals we wish to be remembered at that time. The transfer of merit can be directed individually, collectively, or both simultaneously. Again it is helpful to keep in mind that “All is one and all is different.”
In or near the meditation or ceremony halls of the temples of our Order are usually found boards with transfer of merit cards giving the name, date and, frequently, the circumstances that inspired the request for the transfer of merit for a person in need of help. Usually there is a tragic death, such as suicide, a person with cancer, one recovering from a major accident, someone who is about to undergo surgery, or is recovering from it, or someone experiencing some major upheaval or difficulty in their life. Drawing our attention to the suffering of others and the transience of all life has in and of itself great merit, and benefits those who feel sympathy and send their thoughts of concern and good wishes to those who are experiencing moments of crisis or intense suffering. There is an exchange here. In giving our concern and sympathy we simultaneously receive much benefit. As Great Master Dogen says, “When ever one speaks kindly to another his face brightens and his heart is warmed; if a kind word be spoken in his absence the impression will be a deep one: tenderness can have a revolutionary impact upon the mind of man.”5 To feel sympathy for the suffering of another and to think tenderly or kindly of him or her is of great value.
Thus in giving merit, we are feeling sympathy, expressing it in a tender fashion and performing an act of charity, thus we have found a wise way of helping others. This is the meaning of benevolence. Acting for the benefit of others without thought of reward for ourselves is another way of understanding benevolence and expressing the Bodhisattva mind. Thus the transfer of merit expresses all four of the wisdoms: charity, sympathy, tenderness and benevolence simultaneously.
Usually, perhaps only in the back of our minds, there is a contract in our gift. This can be expressed as: “I’m going to do this nice thing for you, but you should then do something for me in return.” And frequently when we receive a gift there is a sense of obligation to repay it. Transfer of merit is a gift that does not require repayment. It is enlightened action that leaves no wake. (This image is of the wake of a large boat which, at best, only jostles the boats and people it reaches, and, at worst, overwhelms them.) The idea of repayment comes out of a karmic misunderstanding that pervades the entire human condition. Great Master Keizan explores it thoroughly in Chapter XVII of the Transmission of the Light, [Denkoroku]6, the Story of Kanadaiba meeting Ragorata. A monk had died without receiving the Transmission of the Truth and felt guilty about having received the gifts of the faithful, so he returned as a tree fungus in order to repay the people who, with a pure heart, had offered him food. Great Master Keizan points out that there is no need for repayment, and to cling to such a notion simply adds to the karmic cycle of endless rebirths and deaths. “With the illusion of repaying others karma goes on unending.” Kanadaiba advised Ragorata and his father to continue eating the mushrooms until they no longer appeared. The old man offered his son Ragorata to train with Kanadaiba, but felt that he, himself, was too old, not realizing that there are no barriers to training and that waiting for another time, another life, a better place or some other condition in order to commit oneself to training is not going to help. But if we do the best we can right now, the highest enlightenment can be ours. Ragorata found great value as a result of making a pure hearted gift, even to an unworthy monk. If we train for the sake of training, simply because it has merit or value in and of itself, then we can just do what needs to be done irrespective of any desire for reward or fear of punishment. Then there is no repayment; it is just the work of a Buddha. The transfer of merit can be as this, provided we do it with a pure heart.
In Buddhism giving and receiving are simultaneous. We are already whole and complete just as we are. Nothing is gained in birth or lost in death. When someone close to us dies we are not diminished. If we give something away we are not lessened by this act. If we receive something we are not enriched. In the Scripture of Great Wisdom, the prajnaparmita can be translated as “going, going, going on, and always going on, always becoming Buddha”. This way of translating it emphasizes the on-going process of enlightenment rather than something attained or received. Giving is as thus. It the process of giving up the self we can know something far greater. There is merit in acting on this level of understanding.
We need not ask nor hope for a specific result. One of the Universal Laws is that the Law of Karma is not answerable to one’s personal will. In transferring merit, do not get involved in sorcery or pray that some event should happen. This is the wrong use of religion. It is also completely unnecessary, for another Law of the Universe is that evil is vanquished and good prevails. It is unnecessary and harmful to use religious practice to manipulate things or events trying to make the universe to suit our personal wants and fears. It is of much greater benefit to put oneself in harmony with the enlightenment that already permeates the universe. Since suffering is a universal condition inherent in the very nature of existence, no one can enjoy the harmony of body and mind without the complete acceptance of suffering for both oneself and for others. If we can accept suffering, we can transcend it. Or as Great Master Keido Chisan puts it: “The moment the Buddha is transcending us, he is embracing us.”7
“If we can give up something as small as the self, we can know something as great as the Universe.”8Ultimately, we realize that there is no essential difference between the Buddha and ourselves, and this embraces all of the human condition including the moments of birth and death, illness, crisis, accident, and tragedy. Yet we must still individually act. We must see that we live in the world of samsara or illusion, and within that world is the opportunity to do the work of the Buddha. Our efforts to give selflessly reach their spiritual culmination in the monastic Ordination Ceremony: “To whom do we offer this merit? To where do we offer it? The offering, the donor and he who receives [it] are completely immaculate. There is nothing to be desired. Let us, together with all living things, offer this common merit to the highest Truth.”9
“You, me, us, we, them, those and whoever else you can think of do not have the authority to decide the existence of another life but our own. If in the construction of our existence we purposefully and intentionally make the destruction of another life part of the foundational frame work for our relationships with another, on any level, we cascade the effect through our own entire existence.
Believing then that another has no redeeming qualities, is in capable of change, is not worthy of respect, is the worst of the worst, and at the very least not fit for compassion is to build the same qualities upon our existence through every level.
Human life no matter the struggle and it obstacles, however personal, is worth the time and effort it takes to build compassion, to grow in non-judgement, and extend our understanding beyond our own incipient maturities. If on the other hand we should choose not to build these qualities into our existence then it is only a matter of time before such qualities, and that which embody them, are removed due to there non functionality within the larger existence of life we share. A larger existence that supports without judgement, gives without expectation of appreciation, accepts the purpose in all things, and provides for each regardless of its fitness to receive.
So, though we build the existence of another, know we are choosing our own.”
copied from a discussion on the death penalty, however the wisdom, compassion and equanimity the writer speaks of and defines in his post can be applied to any circumstance, any time, to anyone by anyone.
All religious traditions emphasise that we should love one another. All of us, whatever we choose to believe, suffer, and all of us want to be happy, and are frustrated that our efforts so often are counter productive.
Over the centuries, practitioners of Buddhism have created a rich toolbox of methods to enable us to love our fellow humans, to drop hatred and become more effective human beings, more capable of knowing our own needs and of actually being of benefit to others.
In the Buddhist tradition each of these four positive attitudes can be developed with precision and clarity, so that we know ourselves well enough to be of real use to others. At the same time we cease imprisoning ourselves in habitual anger and hatred and liberate ourselves, at the same time as being more capable of helping others.
In order to cope better with our own roller coaster of emotions, the starting point is to develop equanimity. In the Buddhist tradition it’s not a question of contriving or manufacturing equanimity. It’s nothing to do with positive thinking, or blotting out the negative, or making affirmations. Equanimity is a discovery. It is discovered to be ever present. Underneath our roller coaster experience of pain, pleasure, happiness and dissatisfaction is the basic ground of our being, which is equanimity.
Equanimity means the absence of evaluation. Usually we are unable to look at the situation or deal with anybody without superimposing our own value judgements or subjective evaluations. We never see situations as they simply are. Our value judgements colour our understanding of the world and other people. Usually when we meet someone, even while we are in the midst of conversation, we are drawing our conclusions. Then we go away with a fixed impression that he is like this and like that. We project onto people rather than relate to them as they are.
From the viewpoint of equanimity, no-one is a downright enemy, or an everlasting friend. There are no real ultimate friends or enemies at all. As long as we look for friends we are bound to have enemies. The two exist simultaneously. We want to possess and have friends, which is why we create enemies. As soon as the communists cease to be our enemies, we make the Arabs into enemies. It is because we have the attitude of enmity towards others, we can have friends as well.
So equanimity is the key which unlocks the whole toolbox of spiritual development. It gives us access to the enormous diversity of tools available to anyone who wants to be more effective, capable, loving and compassionate. Equanimity is the start of the spiritual path.
Equanimity is not apathy, it is not a fatalistic indifference to what is going on. Equanimity is being completely open to reality so we can directly experience things as they are, rather than interpreting everything and making it into a second hand experience.
But equanimity isn’t enough. The next stage, in the Buddhist tradition, is to discover your capacity to love.
Love is the great four letter word. The greatest art, the latest video clips, the most sublime religious poetry are all about love. Our whole culture is driven by the search for love, but we have become cynical, because our experience is mixed up with attachment, possession, clinging, expectation and demands.
In the Buddhist tradition, love is one of the four immeasurably great catalysts of being, along with equanimity, joy and compassion. Love is an indispenable foundation of spiritual practice. Love is the soil in which the flower of compassion may flower, nurtured by the pure water of joy in the shade of equanimity.
Yet we usually find ourselves slaves to love, held in the thrall of an elusive ideal in hope of deliverance from the complicated lives we have created for ourselves. Love so often is the name we give to a euphoric state which perpetuates our habitual lack of genuineness, or authenticity. In the name of love we make so many demands on others, we expect so much, we work out intellectually a whole drama. “Maybe she loves me, maybe she doesn’t.” Intellectualizing the love we think we feel loses touch with it.
The Buddhist tradition is to generate love unconditionally, without exceptions of being loved in return. In Buddhist meditation, the practitioner imaginatively pervades the world with love, in every direction. Start with yourself, filling your heart with loving kindness, abundant, grown great, free from enmity and free from distress. To love yourself is to be able to love all sentient beings, without reserve. There is nothing intellectual about this. There is no story to tell yourself about whom you love and whom you can’t.
You may be able to pause, and imagine someone who is hard to get on with, a difficult person in your life, and remember that they too are driven by the same desire for happiness as is everyone. Make use of your enemy to teach yourself patience, and the ability to love unconditionally.
Love is of the heart. It manifests in the level of intuition rather than intellect. You don’t need to interpret, or make judgements, or give yourself a part in a soap opera version of your own life. The heart directly experiences love. If you love completely then you don’t need to say, “I love you.” Because love becomes you and I. Love actually dissolves the gate between you and I, and between I and the universe.
Unconditional love is without desire to possess, because ultimately there is no possession and no possessor. Love does not take the inborn sense of I, me, mine as the constant reference point. It is spacious, neither selecting nor excluding.
Intellectualizing love creates such confusion you know longer no whether you love the person or hate him. You can no longer differentiate. Then, even when the relationship begins to break up you are still attached, still clinging to how it used to be in the past, still hoping it can magically come good again. You don’t even have enough space for a new relationship, a new space where you could actually appreciate and love someone else. When that happens we have to generate something else – compassion.
If we are to be effective and capable in daily life, if we are to live up to our ideals, if we are to be of actual help to others, we need to train. The Buddhist tradition offers us a wide range of tools we can use to train ourselves. There are specific methods practiced over many centuries, to generate equanimity, to create a little spaciousness amidst our habitual clutter. There are methods to allow us to become more loving. But love can go stale and cold. This is when we need to generate compassion, which has larger connotations than love.
Compassion means openness or spaciousness, opening up to all situations we are in. It means not bogging down in subjective judgements. It means dropping the compulsion to be constantly asking: “How does this affect me? What do I think about this?” We create space, which allows us to sit back and look at everything properly and precisely. We can then see where our attachment comes from, how we colour our view of the world, how things go wrong.
In order to generate compassion one has first to generate warmth, firstly warmth towards oneself. One has to learn how to accept and like oneself, as only then can one like someone else. Unless you know how to have warmth and compassion towards yourself, you won’t be able to have it for other people. When you have it, then you can share it with others. You can’t share what you don’t have.
Compassion fulfils the needs of situations, as they arise. It is a readiness, an openness to respond properly and precisely, spontaneously, without the selfish agenda, without being so needy that the self gets in the way.
Compassion is the opposite of passion. Passion is egocentric. It is demanding, it makes demands on people. Compassion is open space, it’s undemanding, it’s generous. Compassion is direct, spontaneous. It is felt, rather than manufactured. It requires no investment of your identity or personality. It may take a bit of practice, but it is a natural capacity.
But then compassion can also go askew. You get involved with someone, trying to help them, but you judgement is tinged with sentimentality. It becomes part of ego’s game. You try to help someone, only they don’t respond as you want them to. You can’t rescue them, and that is frustrating. They insist on learning the hard way. No matter how hard you try to help him or her, they don’t change. You feel terrible and get depressed. You feel it would have been better if you hadn’t taken up the practice of compassion. At that point, you need another spiritual practice, which is to generate joy.
As an old Buddhist prayer says:
May all sentient beings enjoy
happiness and the root of happiness.
May they be free from suffering
and the root of suffering.
May they not be separated from the
great happiness devoid of suffering.
May they enjoy the great equanimity that is
free from passion, aggression and prejudice.
Buddhist tradition teaches us equanimity, love, compassion and joy. These four attitudes can be developed, with practice. They are helpful in daily life, and are the root of the spiritual life.
How does one cultivate joy? First, let’s be clear about what we mean. Joy is not the momentary elation of backing a winner. Joy is the steady appreciation of the qualities and potential of others without envy.
The basis of joy is self acceptance. I may be confused, I may suffer from conflicting emotions, and from intellectual perplexity, yet basically I recognise my capacitay to attain liberation. Joy arises from recognizing that your confusion is not inherent, your sufferings are not inevitable, that you do have choice. Your anxiety is not your human nature, it is merely a passing cloud, which will pass from the sky of its own accord.
This historic Buddha was a human being, who awoke to reality, and to his actual nature. He isn’t a god to be worshipped but a person whose example can be followed. What he did, is open to each person to do. None of us is a terrible person, or beyond redemption. No-one can save us from ourselves, but each of us can save ourselves. There is no person who does not have the capacity to become enlightened.
With that attitude one begins to have joy, which is the ability to look at things without being overwhelmed by emotion. Joy is the ability to appreciate the attributes and abilities of others, to rejoice in their beauty and strength, rather than become envious or judgemental. Joy is the antidote to competitiveness, Joy unlocks our ability to relate to the social world.
Joy is a sense of richness, of unboundedness, of not being necessarily a prisoner of the past. It is the opposite of a poverty stricken attitude, which is always comparing oneself, judging, ranking, criticising myself as better or worse than others.
But joy can also beome a prop. a reassurance that things aren’t so bad after all. Joy can become elation, you begin to congratulate yourself, which is nothing but an ego boost. Elation is just as irrelevant as feeling depressed.
It’s a highly emotional, unstable state, and it’s not the same as a quiet, steady joy.
When joy becomes elation, it’s time to go back to equanimity, to the practice of accommodating everything as it is in actuality. You accommodate your depression, elation, joy, happiness, dissatisfaction. You can actually sit back and accommodate everything without judgement. You aren’t trying to force anything. You can accomodate your own emotional ups and downs and the whole universe. This isn’t some mystical process of becoming one with the universe, or that you identify yourself with the universe, but you actually are the universe, and you realize that.
Equanimity, love, compassion and joy are four specific attitudes which Buddhists cultivate so as to enter the path of spiritual development.
The beginning of spirituality is facing up to the reality of personal experience, which is the kaleidoscopic mix of pain, suffering, happiness, dissatisfaction. There must be more to life than alternating pleasure and pain.
Our usual way of dealing with suffering and pain is to try to possess pleasure and happiness. We try to fight off whatever is unpleasant.
Buddhist spirituality asks of us that we awaken, that we wake up to our selves, that we recognize that there is no such thing as one hundred percent pleasure or one hundred percent pain.
When we experience pleasure or happiness there is always a fraction of suffering at the same time. Without suffering, we cannot experience one hundred percent pleasure. That applies the other way round, to suffering as well. Suffering and pleasure both help us to exist, and confirm our existence. Suffering, pleasure and pain exist simultaneously. It’s a basic fact of existence, like a dog having hair or the sun radiating warmth, we can’t have one without the other. So we don’t have to condemn pain, or anything else that happens.
We simply accept our experience as a message that comes from our Buddha Nature. That everything requires courage, the courage needed to deal with everyday life.
Usually we feel we are going to be overwhelmed by our emotions. We become depressed or unhappy, and then defensive and avoid looking into things as they are. We fail to learn how depression comes about, from where depression actually comes. So we need courage to face situations as they arise, without becoming alarmed or defensive.
Courage to face life comes from the practice of developing equanimity, love, compassion and joy. These four attitudes are the first steps on the great path of spiritual development which, in the Buddhist tradition, culminates in enlightenment. The courage to face life is practical and immediate, yet it is also a necessary preliminary to the process of mental cultivation as practiced over many centuries by Buddhist meditators.
Enlightenment may seem like a far distant goal, but Buddhists have always stressed that we all possess the seed of enlightenment, whether we are aware of it or not. In fact, enlightenment isn’t really the right word, it would be more accurate to speak of awakening, or of wakefulness.
There is no-one to turn to who can wake us up. It is up to us to do it for ourselves. We are not woken up by anything divine, or magical or mystical. Enlightenment is not a hypotheses, it is not a theroy or a dogma, it is born from personal experience.
With equanimity, love, compassion and joy we are ready to fully wake up.
After taking refuge, one should hear more of the true Dharma, for only by doing so can one enter into the Buddhist way. Some people think: “The Buddha Dharma should be practiced. What is the use of hearing the Dharma? In the assembly of Surangama, the honorable Ananda was always hearing, yet was unable to attain enlightenment, and he was incapable of avoiding Matangi’s enticement.” They do not know that the honorable Ananda’s problem was with “always hearing” was actually not a problem of hearing the Dharma. All the scriptures say that that if one wants to learn and practice th Buddha Dharma, hearing the Dharma is a must. If one does not hear any of it, how can one learn about emancipation from birth and death , about the most blissful land and Amitabha Buddha, about the way to self-realization, about the true Dharma of Buddhism? If one does not listen to or hear anything, one will not even know about taking refuge in the Three Treasures!
click here to read pages 29-46 /Attending to the Dharma to Enter the Path
Do Not Concern Yourself
To Wu Ta-chun from Master Chu-hung
“Do not concern yourself with whether or not you will become enlightened.
Do not concern yourself with existence and non-existence, with inside and outside and in-between.
Do not concern yourself with stopping” [shammata/samatha]and “observing” [vipashyana/vipasyana].
Do not concern yourself with whether [this method of reciting the buddha-name] is the same or not the same as other Buddhist methods.
If the feeling of doubt does not arise, do not concern yourself with who it is or who it is not [who is reciting the buddha-name]. Simply go on reciting the buddha-name with unified mind and unified intent without a break, pure and unmixed.”
The non-Buddhist or free thinkers always feel that it is an act of superstition when they see Buddhists repent or chant. To repent is to admit one’s mistake. Everyone of us, from the past until the present, have committed countless wrong and evil deeds. We have left behind the karma that brings us sufferings and obstructs our progress towards enlightenment and freedom. In order to reduce and get rid of this karma that is obstructing and bringing suffering to us, we should repent in front of the Buddha or the Sangha and admit our mistakes, so that the past evil karma can be reduced. There are methods of repentance in Buddhism and these are equivalent to the confession’ in Christianity.
This practice is very important for us to progress further along the path of Buddhahood. One must repent for oneself with great sincerity. Then this repentance can be beneficial and comply with the teaching of the Buddha.
People generally do not know how to repent. So, what should we do? The great masters in the past thus compiled some procedures and observances that one could follow if one wants to repent. They taught us to chant word by word, contemplate and understand the teaching behind it. The services of repentance teaches us how to pay respect to the Buddha, seeking for the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, loving kindness and compassionate protection. We should admit our own mistakes, knowing that killing, stealing and adultery are evil deeds, sincerely repenting our past evil deeds and be determined to practice for a better future. These are the procedures of repentance taught by the great masters in the past. However, the most important aim of these services is to develop one’s mind to correcting oneself and repent sincerely for one’s past evil deeds.
Some people cannot even read the readily written procedures, hence, they invite the monks or nuns to lead them during the repentance. As time passes, it gradually turns out to be that these people do not even know that they should repent, and only employ the monks and nuns to repent for them. Some, when their parents or family members pass away, in order to release the past evil karma of the parents and the other family members, invite the monks or nuns to do a repentance service for them. They hope that relying on the merits of the Triple Gem, the death may be relieved from the realms of suffering. However, sometimes they do not understand the real purpose of the teaching and only emphasise on how big the ceremony should be; or do it for the sake of tradition, and spend money to employ the monks or nuns to do the services for them. They do not have faith in Buddhism, and do not show any sincerity in repenting themselves. In this case the purpose of these repentance services will not be achieved.
Gradually, the purpose of the services for repentance becomes vague. The Buddhist devotees do not repent and request the monks or nuns to do everything for them, As a result, the monks and nuns are busy with all these services all day; to do the service for this family today, and the next family tomorrow. And these services become the only activity in some of the monasteries, with the main task of the monks and nuns being neglected. This is one of the causes of lack of faith in Buddhism nowadays.
Repentance has to come from within. If one repents sincerely, even for just an hour, it has better merits than inviting a lot of people and conducting a few days services but not repenting oneself. If one understands this theory, and would like to show one’s filial piety to the one’s parents, the best merit will be to do the repentance oneself. It is not right to regard the services of repentance or other services as the occupation of the monks or nuns, as this will not bring any good to the society, but creates more misunderstanding and defamation for Buddhism.
Chapter 6 Common Buddhist Misunderstandings ( Suffering/Emptiness/Out Wordly ‘Supra-mundane’ and other misunderstandings) from the Selected Translations of Miao Yun ,Book 1
(Master Yin Shun’s English translations)
AT ONE TIME there was a large gathering of literary men and commoners gathered from Kwong-chow, Shiu-chow and other places, to listen to the Patriarch’s words at his monastery of Tso-kai. The Patriarch ascended his platform and delivered the following address:–
Come, good people. In Buddhism we should start from our Essence of Mind. Let us purify our minds always and from one momentary sensation to another. Let us follow the Path by our own effort, recognise our own Essence-body, realise that our own mind is Buddha, and free ourselves by a voluntary observance of the disciplinary rules,–then this gathering will not be in vain. You have all come from distant places: and your gathering here shows the affinity that exists among us. Let us now sit down together in the Indian fashion for Dhyana, while I first lead you in the ritual of Repentance (Ksamayati).
When they were seated the Patriarch continued:–The first is the Sila Incense (Behavior), which symbolises that our minds are free from all taint of misdeeds, evil, jealousy, avarice, anger, spoilation and hatred. The second is Samadhi Incense, which symbolises that our mind is serene under all circumstances–favorable or unfavorable. The third is Prajna Incense, which means that our minds are free from all impediments; that we constantly seek to realise our Mind-essence with wisdom; that we refrain from all evil; that we do all kinds of good acts with no attachment to the fruit of such action; and that we are respectful toward our superiors, considerate of our inferiors, and sympathetic for the destitute and those in trouble. The fourth is the Incense of Liberation, which means that our minds are in such a perfectly free state that they cling to nothing and bother themselves neither with good nor evil. The fifth is the Incense of “Knowledge gained because of the attainment of Liberation.” When our minds cling to neither good nor evil, we should take care not to let them go to the other extreme of vacuity and remain in a state of inertia. At this point we should study and seek to broaden our knowledge so that we can understand our own minds, thoroughly understand the principles of Buddhism, be considerate of others in our dealings with them, get rid of the idea of “self” and “existence,” and realise that up to the time when we obtain enlightenment (Bodhi) our true nature (Tathata) is immutable.
Learned Audience:–This five-fold Incense perfumes us from within; we should not seek it without. Now I want to explain to you this Ritual of Repentance
which is designed to expiate our sins whether committed in the present, the past or future lives; and whether physical, or by word, or by thought. (In Buddhist thought, sin is considered not in a legal sense as something to be punished, or forgiven, or atoned for by sacrifice, but in its cause-and-effect aspect of Karma and its maturing.)
Please follow me carefully and repeat together what I am going to say. May we, disciples (from such and such a village), be always free from the taint of ignorance and delusion. We repent of all our past, present and future sins and evil deeds committed under delusion or in ignorance. May their karma be expiated at once and may they never rise again.
May we, disciples (from such and such a village), be always free from taint of arrogance and dishonesty. We repent of all our past, present and future evil deeds done in an arrogant or dishonest spirit. May their karma be expiated at once and may they never rise again.
May we, disciples (from such and such a village), be always free from taint of envy and jealousy. We repent of all our past, present and future evil deeds done in an envious or jealous spirit. May their karma be expiated at once and may they never rise again.
As you will notice, there are two aspects to this repentance ritual: One refers to repentance for past sin; we ought to repent for all our past sins and evil deeds committed under delusion or ignorance, arrogance or dishonesty, jealousy or envy, so as to put an end to all of them. This is one aspect of repentance. The other aspect refers to future conduct. Having realised the
evil nature of our transgression we make a vow that hereafter we will put an end to all evil deeds committed under delusion or ignorance, arrogance or dishonesty, envy or jealousy, and that we will never sin again. This is the second aspect of repentance. On account of ignorance and delusion, common people do not always appreciate that in repentance they must not only feel sorry for their past sins, but must also refrain from sinning in the future. Since they often take no heed as to their future conduct, they commit the same sins over again almost before the past ones are expiated. How can we call that repentance?
Learned Audience: Having repented of our sins, we should take the following all-embracing vows: Listen very carefully:–
Our Mind-essence is potential of an infinite number of sentient beings. We vow to bring them all unto deliverance.
We vow to get rid of the evil passions of our minds, inexhaustible though they seem.
We vow to learn the countless systems of Dharma in our Mind-essence.
We vow to attain the Supreme Buddhahood of our Mind-essence.
We have now vowed to deliver an infinite number of sentient beings; but what does that mean? It does not mean that I, Hui-neng is going to deliver them. And who are these sentient beings, potential within our minds? They are the delusive mind, the deceitful mind, the evil mind, and such like–all these are sentient beings. Each of them has to be delivered by oneself by means of his own Essence of Mind; only by his own deliverance, is it genuine.
Now, what does it mean, “delivering oneself by one’s own Essence of Mind?’ It means the deliverance of the ignorant, delusive, and the vexatious beings that spring up within our own mind, by means of Right Views. With the aid of Right Views and Prajna, the barriers thrown up by these delusive and ignorant beings may be broken down; so that each of us will be in a position to deliver himself by his own efforts. The false will be delivered by truthfulness; the delusive by enlightenment; the ignorant by wisdom; and the malevolent by benevolence; such is genuine deliverance.
As to the vow; “to get rid of the inexhaustible evil passions,” that refers to the transcendence of our unreliable and illusive thinking faculty by the transcendental Wisdom (Prajna) of our Mind-essence. As to the vow: “to learn the countless systems of Dharma”; there will be no true knowledge until we have been brought face to face with our Essence of Mind, by our conforming to the orthodox Dharma on all occasions. As to the vow, “to attain Supreme Buddahood”; I wish to point out that when we are able to control our mind to follow the true and orthodox Dharma on all occasions, and when Prajna always rises in our minds, so that we can hold aloof from both ignorance and enlightenment, and can do away with falsehood as well as truth, then we may consider ourselves as having realised our Buddha-nature, or, in other words, having attained Buddhahood.
Learned Audience: we should always bear in mind that we are following the Path for thereby strength is added to our vows. Now, since we have all taken the four-fold vows, I will teach you the Ritual of the threefold Guidance.
We take “Enlightenment” as our Guide, because it is the fruit of both merit (Punya) and Wisdom (Prajna).
We take “Orthodoxy” as our Guide, because it is the best way to get rid of desire.
We take “Purity” as our Guide, because it is the noblest quality of mankind.
Hereafter let Shakyamuni, the Enlightened One, be our guide and on no account should we listen to the suggestions of Mara, the evil one, of any heretic. We should testify to ourselves by constantly appealing to the “Three Gems” or our Essence of Mind, in which I advise you to take refuge. They are:
Buddha, which stands for Enlightenment;
Dharma, which stands for Orthodoxy;
Sangha, which stands for Purity.
To take refuge in Enlightenment so that evil and delusive notions do not arise, so that desire decreases, discontent becomes unknown, and lust and greed no longer bind us–this is the fruitage of Punya and Prajna. To take refuge in Orthodoxy so that from momentary sensation to another we will be free from wrong views–this is the best means of getting rid of desires. To take refuge in Purity so that no matter under what circumstance we may be, we will not become contaminated by wearisome sense objects, by craving nor by desire–this is the noblest quality of mankind. To practise the “Three-fold Guidance” as thus outlined means to take refuge in one’s Mind-essence. Ignorant people often take the “Three-fold Guidance” without understanding it. They say that they take
refuge in Buddha: do they know where he is? If they cannot conceive Buddha, how can they take refuge in him? Would not such an assertion amount to self-deception? Each of you should examine this point for himself, so that his energy may not be misapplied through ignorance. The Sutra distinctly says that each should take refuge in the Buddha within himself. It does not refer to any other Buddhas, hence if we do not take refuge in the Buddha of our own Mind-essence, there is nowhere else for us to go. Having cleared this point, let each of us take refuge in the “Three jewels” of his own mind. Within, each should control his own mind; without, each should be respectful toward others–this is the way to take refuge within ourselves.
I have a stanza, the reciting and practising of which will at once dispel the delusions and expiate the sins accumulated during many kalpas. This is the stanza:–
People under delusion accumulate tainted merit but tread not the Path.
They are under the illusion that to accumulate merit and to tread the Path are one and the same thing.
Their merit for alms-giving and offerings may be infinite,
But they fail to realise that the ultimate source of sin lies in the greed, hatred and infatuation within their own mind.
They expect to expiate their sin by the accumulation of merit,
Without knowing that the felicities to be gained thereby in future lives, p. 264 Have nothing to do with expiation of sin.
If we get rid of the sin within our own mind
Then it is a case of true repentance.
One who realises suddenly what constitutes true repentance in the Mahayana sense,
And who ceases to do evil and practises righteousness, is free from sin.
Essence of Mind (Tathata) is the real Buddha,
While heretical views and the three poisonous elements are Mara.
Enlightened by Right Views, we call forth the Buddha within us.
When our nature is dominated by the three poisonous elements, as the result of heretical views,
We are said to be possessed by Mara;
But when Right Views free our minds of these poison elements,
Mara will, be transformed into a real Buddha.
A follower of the Path who keeps constant watch on his Mind-essence
Is in the same class with the many Buddhas.
Our Patriarchs transmitted no other system but this of “Sudden Enlightenment.”
If you are seeking Dharmakaya,
Search for it apart from the world of things and phenomena,
Then your mind will be pure and free.
Exert yourself in order to come face to face with Mind-essence and relax not;
For death may come suddenly and put an end to your earthly existence.
Learned Audience:–All of you should recite this stanza and put it into practice. If you succeed in realising Essence of Mind, then you may think of yourselves as being in my presence though you may be a thousand miles away. But should you be unable to do so, though we were face to face with each other, we would really be thousands of miles apart. In that case what is the use of your taking the trouble to come here from such a long distance? Take good care of yourselves. I bid you good-bye.
So many people enter the hall to practice.
How many of them carry that long sword
The sword of Heavenly Reliance?
Everything has to be hacked to pieces.
Saints, demons, everything!
Blood has to be splattered all over the mansions of heaven.
That’s the Direct Teaching!
Pull down those golden locked gates to the Profound
That guard the Entrance to the Way.
Be fierce when you sit! Make your sitting a blade that hacks through the
wilderness of incomprehension.
Let your eye pierce the Emptiness!
Expose that True Face
The One that was yours before your mother gave birth.
It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a sign or a warning signal to show you the weak point in your practice.
There are several poor ways of practice which you should understand. Usually when you practice zazen, you become very idealistic, and you set up an ideal or goal which you strive to attain and fulfill. But as I have often said, this is absurd. When you are idealistic, you have some gaining idea within yourself; by the time you attain your ideal or goal, your gaining idea will create another ideal.
So as long as your practice is based on a gaining idea, and you practice zazen in an idealistic way, you will have no time actually to attain your ideal.
Moreover, you will be sacrificing the meat of your practice. Because your attainment is always ahead, you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal in the future. You end up with nothing. This is absurd; it is not adequate practice at all. But even worse than this idealistic attitude is to practice zazen in competition with someone else. This is a poor, shabby kind of practice.
Our Soto way puts an emphasis on shikan taza, or “just sitting.” Actually we do not have any particular name for our practice; when we practice zazen we just practice it, and whether we find joy in our practice or not, we just do it…
“When our mind works freely without any hindrance, and is at liberty to ‘come’ or to ‘go’, we attain Samadhi of Prajna, or liberation. Such a state is called the function of ‘thoughtlessness’. But to refrain from thinking of anything, so that all thoughts are suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden, and this is an erroneous view.”
When the teachings “click” for you somewhere deep in your heart and mind, then you really have the View. Whatever difficulties you face, you will find you have some kind of serenity, stability, and understanding, and an internal mechanism- you could call it an “ inner transformer”- that works for you, to protect you from falling prey to wrong views. In that View, you will have discovered a “wisdom guide’ of your own, always at hand to advise you, support you, and remind you of the truth. Confusion will still arise, that’s only normal, but with a crucial difference: No longer will you focus on it in a blinded and obsessive way, but you will look on it with humor, perspective, and compassion.
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
Those who take refuge in the three treasures, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, are called the disciples of Buddha. The disciples of Buddha observe the four parts of mind-control—the precepts, faith, offering and wisdom.
The disciples of Buddha practise the five precepts: not to kill, not to steel, not to commit adultery, not to lie, and not to take intoxicants of any kind.
The disciples of Buddha have faith in the Buddha’s perfect wisdom. They try to keep away from greediness and selfishness and to practice offering. They understand the law of cause and effect, keeping in mind the transiency of life and conform to the norm of wisdom.
A tree leaning toward the east will naturally fall eastward and so those who listen to the Buddha’s teaching and maintain faith in it will surely be born in the Buddha’s Pure Land.
It had rightly been said that those who believe in the three treasures of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are called the disciples of Buddha.
The Buddha is the one who attained perfect Enlightenment and used his attainment to emancipate and bless all mankind. The Dharma is the truth, the spirit of Enlightenment and the teaching that explains it. The Sangha is the perfect brotherhood of believers in the Buddha and Dharma.
We speak of Buddhahood, the Dharma and the Brotherhood as though they are three different things, but they are really one. Buddha is manifested in His Dharma and is realized by the Brotherhood. Therefore, to believe in the Dharma and to cherish the Brotherhood is to have faith in the Buddha, and to have faith in the Buddha means to believe in the Dharma and to cherish the Brotherhood.
Therefore, people are emancipated and enlightened simply by having faith in the Buddha. Buddha is the perfectly Enlightened One and He loves everyone as though each were His only child. So if anyone regards Buddha as his own parent, he identifies himself with Buddha and attains Enlightenment.
Those who thus regard Buddha will be supported by His wisdom and perfumed by His grace.
Nothing in the world brings greater benefit than to believe in Buddha. Just hearing Buddha’s name, believing and being pleased even for a moment, is incomparably rewarding.
Therefore, one must please oneself by seeking the teaching of Buddha in spite of the conflagration that fills all the world.
It will be hard to meet a teacher who can explain the Dharma; it will be harder to meet a Buddha; but it will be hardest to believe in His teachings.
But now that you have met the Buddha, who is hard to meet, and have had it explained to you what is hard to hear, you ought to rejoice and believe and have faith in Buddha.
On the long journey of human life, faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey and it is the greatest possession.
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Bodhidharma was a great master from suthern India. He first arrived in China by sea in the Song Dynasty. Later, in the Liang Dyansaty, he crossed the Yangtze River and arived in Loyang, the capital of Bei Wei Dyansty. He went to the Shao Lin Monastery in Songshan. There is a lengend that he meditated and contemplated in front of a wall there for nine years. As a result, he became known as the “Brahmana (Holy One) who gazes at the wall.”
He taught the Mahayana way of meditation and did not emphasis on the studies of doctrines and sutras. He did not show much interest in Buddhist rituals or ceremonies. His emphasis was to practice meditation. His teachings were based on the Lankavatara Sutra, which emphasises on the “Direct exploration of the human mind, penetration of the truth and attainment of Buddhahood.”
However , this method is very deep and profound. It is not easy to practice. Only a few people, such as Venerable Hui Ke, managed to learn the method from him.
In the Tang Dynasty, Bodhidharma’s method of meditation had passed down to its fifth generation. It was mastered by Venerable Hong Ren of the Dong Shan Monastery in Huangmei. By that time, the meditatin method was reasonably well develooped.
Lu Hui Neng from Lingnan came to the Dong Shan Monastery. There he worked and practiced at the same time. He was illiterate and had not studied the doctrines. However, he practised meditation and contemplated whole heartedly. During one examination, he created the following poem:
There is no true Bodhi tree,
Nor is there a true mirror stand
Since all is empty in nature,
Where is there for dust to land?
This poem gained the praise of Venerable Hong Ren. He felt that Hui Neng has mastered the principle of Bodhidharma’s teaching. After Hui Neng returned to the south, he resided at the Nab Hua Monastery in Caoxi Shan and propagated the meditation method of Bodhidharma and the method of “Sudden Enlightenment”. From then on, the School of Chan became popular. It became the most powerful and most influential school in Chinese Buddhism. Hui Neng gained the title of the Sixth Patriarch. He is regarded as a great Master who exerted the most significant influence on Chinese Buddhism and culture.
Source: From Selected Translations of Miao Yun Part 4 ( Revised Edition) Venerable Yin-shun
see Hwa Tsang Buddhist Monastery for more information on Miao Yun publications.
The Pali term Karma literally means action or doing. Any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal, or physical, is regarded as Karma. It covers all that is included in the phrase “thought, word and deed”. Generally speaking, all good and bad action constitutes Karma. In its ultimate sense Karma means all moral and immoral volition. Involuntary, unintentional or unconscious actions, though technically deeds, do not constitute Karma, because volition, the most important factor in determining Karma, is absent.
The Buddha says:
“I declare, O Bhikkhus, that volition is Karma. Having willed one acts by body, speech, and thought.” (Anguttara Nikaya)
Every volitional action of individuals, save those of Buddhas and Arahants, is called Karma. The exception made in their case is because they are delivered from both good and evil; they have eradicated ignorance and craving, the roots of Karma.
“Destroyed are their germinal seeds (Khina bija); selfish desires no longer grow,” states the Ratana Sutta of Sutta nipata.
This does not mean that the Buddha and Arahantas are passive. They are tirelessly active in working for the real well being and happiness of all. Their deeds ordinarily accepted as good or moral, lack creative power as regards themselves. Understanding things as they truly are, they have finally shattered their cosmic fetters – the chain of cause and effect.
Karma does not necessarily mean past actions. It embraces both past and present deeds. Hence in one sense, we are the result of what we were; we will be the result of what we are. In another sense, it should be added, we are not totally the result of what we were; we will not absolutely be the result of what we are. The present is no doubt the offspring of the past and is the present of the future, but the present is not always a true index of either the past or the future; so complex is the working of Karma.
It is this doctrine of Karma that the mother teaches her child when she says “Be good and you will be happy and we will love you; but if you are bad, you will be unhappy and we will not love you.” In short, Karma is the law of cause and effect in the ethical realm.